Dick DeVos has found ways to turn profits in every business he’s run thanks to his strong but kind personality. But most importantly he has taken his business leadership and applied it to causes that have been near and dear to his heart. He’s a political activist who’s been involved in the Michigan Republican Party for many years including donating to political candidates and running as one, but his generosity reaches far beyond that. Dick and his wife Betsy have donated a large part of their money to schools and universities as well as organizations like Hudson Institute and Heritage Foundation. But they’ve also included hospitals, churches, family counseling centers, art and museums and energy initiatives as part of their gifts. When Betsy was chosen to become US Secretary of Education, she and Dick revealed their lifetime philanthropy was about $139 million.
Much of Dick’s recent business activity has centered around The Windquest Group, an investment company based in Grand Rapids, MI whose portfolio includes Electratherm, Huron Ventures, The Stowe Company and a recent addition now of Coppercraft Distillery. Prior to and during the founding of this company, Dick was an executive at Amway Corporation, one of the world’s largest direct selling and international distribution companies. This company was founded by Dick’s father Richard DeVos Sr. and Dick served as a manager, vice president and eventually CEO for nearly 30 of his career. He was also on the executive board of the Orlando Magic for a few years when his father bought most of the team’s shares.
Dick and Betsy found their passion for education as parents when they noticed families struggling to send their children to private schools that they had no trouble sending their own children to. So they first decided to try reform by starting scholarships through the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation and later being involved with Education Freedom Fund and Children First. They also worked with Michigan’s state government to try and get tax credits and vouchers for private schools but didn’t get the votes needed to do so. They did continue to work at finding ways to make schooling cheaper, and just 7 years ago started their own school with a special aviation curriculum called the West Michigan Aviation Academy.
Dick’s political career first hit the national spotlight when he decided to challenge then governor Jennifer Granholm for her governor’s seat. While Dick’s ideas on changing the state’s economic landscape resonated well with many voters prior to election day, his debate performance did not and he came up short at the ballot box. He did continue working with Republican activists in the coming years and 6 years later helped fight union leaders to pass a right-to-work law. One of Dick’s signature philanthropy acts was a donation to healthcare that helped him achieve the Spectrum Health Foundation’s Art of Giving award.