When it was announced that a plan was floating around to build a multipurpose sports and convention arena north of downtown Grand Rapids, Dick DeVos immediately started making phones calls to lobby against this idea.
The future CEO (1993 to 2002) of his family’s Amway Corporation was worried that this convention arena would be a detriment to Grand Rapids and the downtown area. He reminded others of the negative effect of the building of the Silverdome and Palace of Auburn Hills had on Detroit when the Pistons and Lions left in 1970.
Dick is married to Betsy DeVos. Both of these individuals are heirs to family fortunes and have spent much of their adult’s lives trying to change the world by changing institutions and policies. These GOP mega-donors are behind a variety of changes in state laws that affect labor and education.
Besty DeVos focuses typically on education and has successfully pushed a massive expansion of charter schools. Dick DeVos was one of the founding engineers of a 2012 law that changed Michigan from a home of organized labor to a right-to-work state. This change ensured that union membership was not a requirement of employment in the state.
When you think of Republican politics and the conservative cause, the DeVos is one of the leading names for support. However, their influence extends well beyond these agendas. Beginning in 1989, the Dick and Besty DeVos Family Foundation gave away more than $135 million to a variety of programs.
These programs include scholarships for private schools, leadership programs, policy initiatives for education reform, arts and culture, health and human services, and church. They gave the leading donation for Spectrum Health System Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.
The 2006 construction of this hospital received $103 million and was named after Dick’s mom, Helen DeVos. She is the wife of Richard DeVos who is Dick’s dad and the co-founder of the Amway Corporation.
The DeVos couple most significant initiative is education reform. Mr. DeVos created an aviation charter high school. This high school is located at the Grand Rapids International Airport and is accessible to all Grand Rapids are high school students.
Their main goal for education reform is to ensure all children, regardless of income, have the same opportunities as the DeVos’ children. Over the years, they have succeeded in this education reform. However, they have also failed.
An example was in 2000 when voters rejected the idea of tax-funded private school vouchers for students. Dick DeVos also lost his campaign for governor shortly after this rejection. The DeVos couple does not give up.
They chose to change strategies and succeeded in twenty-four states and Washington DC offering some type of vouch for private school education.
Follow Dick DeVos on Facebook.