For the DeVoses, Challenges Lead to Involvement

Dick and Betsy DeVos are not shy about challenging the status quo. For instance, Dick led the fight to block a sports and convention center proposed for development outside of downtown Grand Rapids. He felt that the project would pull development away from his hometown’s city center, eventually leaving it as barren as the Pontiac Silverdome and Palace of Auburn Hills had left Detroit.


Both DeVoses are further known for how they’ve taken action to support private school education when public schools prove ineffective. In fact, the reputation of Betsy DeVos in that area led to her appointment as U.S. Secretary of Education in the Trump Administration.


But the DeVoses were always about more than merely blocking actions and activities to which they were opposed. For instance, the phone calls and meetings that triggered his success at stopping the sports and convention center project led to Dick DeVos corralling many of the city’s influential movers and shakers to form Grand Action.


That group has been heavily responsible for the transformation of the city’s skyline with such development projects as Van Andel Arena, the Grand Rapids City Market, the DeVos Place Convention Center and the medical school of Michigan State University, among others.


In 1993, the DeVos couple started up the Education Freedom Fund and serve on its board of directors. The fund pays for thousands of low-income students to attend private schools on scholarships.


They also built, from the ground up, the ambitious and highly respected West Michigan Aviation Academy — a charter school available to Grand Rapids students on a tuition-free basis.


Regarding statewide employment issues, Dick DeVos was a driving force behind the 2012 push to transform heavily union-influenced Michigan into a right-to-work state.


The DeVoses have used their combined fortunes — Dick was CEO of Amway and Betsy’s father was a billionaire industrialist — to enrich their city in numerous ways. Through the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, they’ve donated hundreds of millions of dollars to a children’s hospital, arts and culture organizations, policy and leadership initiatives, human service programs, education, churches and other causes for which they share a passion.


In short, dissatisfaction has spurred Dick and Betsy DeVos to devote time and capital to make positive change on numerous fronts. And those actions have benefited their beloved Grand Rapids and the state of Michigan in untold ways. Learn more: