Families who have looked to private schools as a better choice for their children have benefited greatly from Dick and Betsy DeVos’s generosity over the years. Betsy was interviewed by Philanthropy Roundtable to explain the importance of education and why the DeVos Foundation has valued it highly. As a parents with a lot of money, she and Dick could afford to send their children to any private school of their choice, but she saw how families sending students to schools like Potter’s House could barely afford to do so. She and Dick decided to establish scholarships to help these families, but also to pursue changes in state laws to make private education more affordable.
Dick DeVos grew up in a family that valued hard work and philanthropy. His father, Richard DeVos co-founded Amway Corporation, a multilevel marketing company that also allows people to resell their products. Dick got his education at Northwood University, and then went to work at Amway for nearly 30 years. He first became a company vice president, but then took over as CEO after his father stepped down. Amway grew its sales in the billions and established new company offices overseas during the 10 years Dick was CEO.
Dick first got into education reform when he won election to the Michigan State Board of Education. In addition to starting up scholarship programs and private school vouchers, he and Betsy also started up the Great Lakes Education Project to help fund the operation of more charter schools in the state. Dick even helped start a charter school of his own called The West Michigan Aviation Academy. This charter school not only provided standard education, but taught aviation and aircraft mechanics courses and provided onsite training. Dick and Betsy have also sponsored the Education Freedom Fund.
Many churches and non-profit groups have also benefited from the DeVos’s philanthropy including Heritage Foundation, Mars Hill Bible Church, Hudson Institute, and the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Dick also has sat on the board of Grand Action Committee, a Grand Rapids revitalization committee that’s overseen the development of many downtown buildings. Dick has been a longtime Republican activist and once decided to run for governor, though he narrowly lost to incumbent Jennifer Granholm. In 2012, he was instrumental in helping pass a right-to-work law after years of opposition to it. He also authored a 1998 book titled Rediscovering American Values.