The state of Michigan is going to forever be linked to the work that the DeVos family has undertaken over the better part of the past fifty years. Dick and Betsy DeVos are two of Michigan’s most prominent political names thanks to their work as lobbyists, GOP donors, and now politicians at the highest levels of the United States government. Dick DeVos is the heir to Amway and the former President of the company while Betsy DeVos is currently serving as the Secretary of Education for the United States of America. While the DeVos family may be gravitating toward Washington D.C., we’re better served looking at the past thirty years of hard work they have put into making Grand Rapids a destination city for middle America.
Grand Rapids in the ’90s was a booming city with potential but with that potential, there was also some risk. In 1991, there was talk around town that a new convention center was to be installed in the downtown area of the city. Convention centers play a divisive role in most communities as they can be thriving sources of income or millstones that drag the entire city down and into the reality of tax burden. Dick DeVos opposed the construction of a new convention center from day one and he pointed to how Detroit had struggled in the wake of being abandoned by the Pistons and Lions, two professional sports teams that had once called convention centers in Detroit their home.
Dick DeVos would take his protest of the convention center construction one step further as he became a leader of the Grand Action group, an organization of business professionals who are committed to making Grand Rapids thrive through intelligent investments. The Grand Action group would eventually win out over the convention center job and they would go on to become integral donors and supporters of a variety of high-profile developments in the city. Among these many developments was the erection of the Spectrum Health System children’s hospital, funded in large part thanks to a $12.5 million donation from Dick DeVos himself.
Nowadays, Dick DeVos is working on the FAA Management Advisory Council as one of seven new civilians added to the committee. Dick DeVos was integral in getting the Gerald R. Ford International Airport new routes that would help the airport to thrive as a destination in the Midwest. Dick DeVos also helped to establish the West Michigan Aviation Academy back in 2010.
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Betsy DeVos has been at the forefront of positive change sine her time at Calvin College, when she was known as Elisabeth Prince. In addition, her husband, Dick DeVos, is also actively involved in political and educational reform. He was a candidate for the Governor of Michigan in 2006. In 1989, the DeVos’ established the Widnquest Group. This consists of multiple companies that focus on innovations in manufacturing, technology,and clean energy. Mrs. DeVos is the chairman of the Windquest Group, and she is also the chairman of the Alliance for School Choice and the American Federation for Children (AFC). In addition, she also dedicates her time to numerous national and local boards that includes Kids Hope USA, Mars Hill Bible Church, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, and the DeVos Institute for Arts Management at the Kennedy Center.
Mrs. DeVos participated in an interview that discussed her feelings on educational reform and educational choice. Mrs. DeVos is a believer in using vouchers and tax credits to provide students with the opportunity to attend their school of choice, which could include magnet, private, or charter schools. Mrs. DeVos explained that students shouldn’t be confined to attending a school based on which zip code they live in, and she also believes in using technology to enhance digital learning. According to Mrs. DeVos, homeschooling is an ideal way that parents can take control of their children’s education, and digital learning enables homeschooling and virtual schools with the ability to have the same educational opportunities as those in a traditional classroom setting. When asked about the progression of educational choice, Mrs, DeVos explained that she is optimistic because presently there are an estimated 250,000 students in 33 private schools that are publicly funded in 17 states as well as the District of Columbia. Her devotion to educational reform is the primary reason she was appointed to the position of United States Secretary of Eduction by President Trump.
Mr. and Mrs. DeVos were heirs to family fortunes, and they have contributed to numerous charities. In 2015, the couple donated $11.6 million, and Forbes predicted that the family has donated a lifetime amount of $1.33 billion, which is nearly a quarter of their estimated worth of $5.2 billion. They want their donations to give every student the right to pursue the American dream through freedom of educational choice, and the power couple will continue to work toward educational reform.
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