As a public plan began to enfold to construct a sports and convention arena in downtown Grand Rapids, Dick DeVos was on his own path to a position as CEO in his family’s Amway business. But because DeVos was concerned about the prospective arena, and its effect on the downtown area, he began lobbying to oppose the idea. DeVos worried that the multi-purpose facility would be just as damaging to Grand Rapids as the Pontiac Silverdome had been when the Detroit Lions vacated the city back in the 1970s.
Dick DeVos has always had the area’s best interests in mind and has tackled many past hurdles. He placed Grand Rapids on the map by helping to improve the airports air travel through West Michigan with non-stop flights out of Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Longtime pilot and previous Amway CEO, Dick DeVos was also appointed along with six other members to oversee the Federal Aviation Administration.
Dick and his wife Betsy, Donald’s Trumps pick for Education Secretary, are also key players in implementing public charter schools throughout Western Michigan. Once housing approximately 80 students in a dilapidated space within Gerald R. Ford International Airport, the nonprofit charter school earned its place when it moved to its own separate facility that houses 600 students from seven different counties. The school seems to fit with the DeVos’s philosophy on education and what Betsy hopes to achieve in Washington.
Hoping to learn from past lessons, Dick’s campaigning led to forming the communities own driving force of business leaders called the Grand Action. Other construction facilities that helped change the skyline of Grand Rapids, and the trajectory of the city include Michigan State University’s medical school, Van Andel Arena, the DeVos Performance Hall, DeVos Place Convention Center and Grand Rapids City Market.
The couple’s family fortunes have allowed them to spend much of their adult lives improving policies and institutions. Dick and Betsy DeVos are GOP mega-donors where they have used their political influence to change states laws that affect the labor and education system. While Betsy pushed for the successful expansion of charter schools, Dick’s focus has been on laws that convert Michigan from an organized labor force to a right-to-work state.
The influence of the DeVos family extends far beyond conservative causes and Republican politics though. The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation has also reportedly donated over $130 million to arts and culture, leadership, churches, health and human services and programs focused on scholarships and education reform. Dick and Betsy also donated generously to the construction of the children’s hospital in the Spectrum Health System in 2006.
Although the DeVos’s have been involved in many causes, education reform has been their top initiative. Through their educational and philanthropic endeavors, children from low-income families would have similar opportunities to those of their children.
However, the efforts of Dick and Betsy to sway the public’s opinion were not always successful. Voters turned down an amendment back in 2000 that would create vouchers for students to attend private schools. Dick DeVos also lost his campaign for governor against Jennifer Granholm.
While the couple faced numerous struggles, they never gave up. Instead, they shifted their focus on privatized school vouchers toward different parts of the country. Thanks to Dick and Betsy, twenty-four states including the District of Columbia offers more choices to parents and students.
Betsy’s school choice mission was also one of the many reasons President Donald Trump felt she would be the perfect fit for the role as Secretary of Education.
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