Dick DeVos, by now, has a name almost inextricably linked to politics. He ran in 2006, as the Republican gubernatorial candidate for the state of Michigan. In a memorable race, he lost by just a few percentage points to the then incumbent governor, Jennifer Granholm.
But more recently, the DeVos named has been even more closely associated with politics as a result of Dick DeVos’ wife, Betsy DeVos, being appointed as Secretary of Education by President Trump. This has led to the majority of people who are not intimately familiar with the DeVos family to assume that they are somehow a family of career politicians. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As the oldest son of Rich DeVos, the billionaire cofounder of Amway, Dick DeVos has had a long and successful business career in his own right. He has led the family business as well as many other outside business ventures of his own making. He is widely credited with being one of the key players in the revitalization of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the early 1980s. But perhaps the most important activity that DeVos has engaged in, throughout the course of his life, is his notable philanthropy.
DeVos has largely concentrated his philanthropic efforts around education, although his largesse has not been limited to just that field. However, the DeVos family has long believed that charity does, indeed, start at home. The vast majority of the DeVos family’s charitable contributions have been heavily focused on the state of Michigan in general and the West Michigan area in particular, the place where DeVos has lived his entire life.
Through Great Lakes Education Foundation, the family’s flagship philanthropic vehicle, DeVos has given away literally hundreds of millions of dollars to causes related to education. Although some of his political opponents disingenuously refer to these magnanimous donations as political contributions, the truth is that almost all of that money has gone directly into the hands of students or into the programs that they use.
DeVos has long been an adherent to the school of philanthropy which believes strongly in evidence-based charity. DeVos has assiduously researched the activities to which he contributes. He has slowly come to the conclusion that the voucher system and charter schools, while not perfect, provide the best road map to optimizing U.S. education, a state from which we are currently very far as a nation.