Dick and Betsy DeVos are Michigan born philanthropists and political activists. Not only have they helped transform the city of Grand Rapids, they have helped enact policy changes in health services and the education system in and outside of Michigan. Dick DeVos is heir to the Amway Corporation co-founded by his father. Also an heir to a family fortune, Betsy DeVos has fought for education reform across the United States, which ultimately led to her appointment as the U.S. Secretary of Education under the Trump administration.
Dick and Betsy have helped drive the development of their home town of Grand Rapids, transforming the skyline and making it a destination for tourists. In 1991, Dick began his endeavor to revitalize Grand Rapids by lobbying against the construction of a new sports arena and convention center in the downtown area. Recalling the detrimental effect that the Pontiac Silverdome had on Detroit, DeVos contacted business owners to join his lobbying efforts.
Eventually, Dick and the team of business owners formed the Grand Action group. Grand Action drove the construction of many iconic Grand Rapids buildings, like the DeVos Place Convention Center, the Grand Rapids City Market, and Michigan State University’s medical school. These buildings have transformed the Grand Rapids skyline.
Dick and Betsy DeVos make regular donations to the GOP and are well known philanthropists, supporting the arts, health services, and education reform. In 2006, the couple donated $12.5 million to aid in the construction of a Grand Rapids children’s hospital. The hospital has helped local families in the Grand Rapids area to receive quality healthcare without traveling to distant hospitals in Chicago or Ann Arbor.
Dick and Betsy have focused much of their time and energy on education reform. Their primary aim has been to provide the same educational opportunities to all children, regardless of family income. In 2000, the DeVos sponsored and promoted a constitutional amendment that would offer education vouchers to families in Michigan, which would have allowed children from low income households to attend private schools.
Though the amendment was voted down, Dick and Betsy were committed to promoting education reform and focused their attention outside of Michigan. With the help of their efforts, twenty-four states and Washington D.C. now offer educational vouchers to allow children from low income areas to attend private schools.
Proponents of charter school systems, Dick and Betsy founded the West Michigan Aviation Academy. This charter school, located at the Grand Rapids airport, supports students from all over Michigan, some of whom commute long distances to attend the school. The school teaches students about aviation, allowing them to begin down a path toward becoming pilots. It features classes in engineering, computer science, and robotics, but also offers traditional classes in math, literature, and foreign languages.
Dick and Betsy DeVos’s efforts have transformed the city of Grand Rapids and led to education system reform in and outside of Michigan. They continue to promote education reform across the United States.
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