There was a lot of news made about Betsy DeVos’s nomination to the US Secretary of Education, but perhaps none more revealing than the announcement that Dick DeVos her husband revealed $139 million that he and Betsy had given over their career. Dick and Betsy’s primary business interest has been The Windquest Group, an investment company they started that includes a lot of energy and technology development companies in its portfolio. Some of the funds they’ve generated from that company have been used to fund various non-profit groups including ArtPrize and the West Michigan Aviation Academy. Dick and Betsy have also given through the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation.
Dick DeVos actually began his career in direct selling at the company his father cofounded, Amway Corporation. His father is Richard DeVos Sr., a close friend of former President Gerald Ford and the majority shareholder of the NBA’s Orlando Magic. Amway has sold health, cosmetics and household supplies through allowing people to become independent business owners and resell their products to their own customers for profit. Dick DeVos learned a bit of the company’s operations before completing college, and then after doing so he became a lower level manager and worked his way to vice president. He later became CEO when Richard DeVos Sr. retired.
Dick DeVos and his wife Betsy had been active in philanthropy through their lives, but it really started taking off when they started the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation in 1992. The first and foremost organizations they contributed to were private schools including Grand Rapids Christian School and Potter’s House. They started several grant and scholarship funds in partnership with Children’s Scholarship Fund to cover these private schools’ operational costs and help lower income families pay for schooling. They eventually worked with charter school foundations and eventually raised the funds and resources to start their own charter school, The West Michigan Aviation Academy.
Dick DeVos has also taken his philanthropy to colleges and universities including his alma mater Northwood University and the Thunderbird School of Global Management. He’s on several development committees including Grand Action, a board of civic leaders who work to bring residential, commercial and entertainment complexes to the city. Dick DeVos was also one of the largest donors to the Kennedy Center’s art institute that was renamed the Dick and Betsy Institute of Arts Management. He’s been active with groups such as Action Institute and Heritage Foundation and also ran for governor in the 2006 election season. While he didn’t succeed in that race, he did continue to work with political activists including the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, and in 2012 he was part of a group that brought the first right-to-work law to pass.