There may not be a greater group of philanthropists in Michigan than the DeVos family. They are one of Michigan’s wealthiest families and have spent much of their lives running a business, but also starting up foundations and donating to non-profit groups and charities. The most notable member of the DeVos family is Dick DeVos and his wife Betsy. Dick and Betsy have donated a lot of money to conservative groups and family-based organizations. In a recent report by Forbes, it’s estimated that the DeVos’s have given out over $1.2 billion in their lifetimes, and $94 million in the year 2014 alone.
Dick DeVos spent many years of his life working for and running the family business, Amway Corporation. It was co-founded by his father Rich DeVos, and became one of America’s leading direct selling enterprises. Dick started off in the company in 1974, and in 10 years he became a vice president. He began expanding Amway not only to states all across the US, but began opening branches overseas as well. He started aggressively opening business in the foreign markets when he took over as CEO in 1993, and by the time he stepped down in 2002, he had greatly increased profits in the billions. Today, he is the leader of the Windquest Group, a job that allows him more time to focus on his philanthropies.
Dick and Betsy have spent much of the foundation money on local arts, sciences, and education ventures. They’ve given to local museums and art centers, including the art institute branch of the Kennedy Center in Washington. That institute was actually renamed the Dick and Betsy DeVos Institute of Arts. But they’ve also funded and supported many scholarships and voucher programs for school of choice, believing that every young child should have the chance to get the best education they can. They’ve even helped open up an aviation charter school just outside of Grand Rapids.
Dick and Betsy have also been very politically active in their careers, and the family has had close ties to former president Gerald R Ford. Betsy has formerly served as chair of the Michigan Republican Party and Dick at one point jumped into the governor’s race of 2006. He narrowly lost to incumbent Jennifer Granholm, but he continued working behind the scenes to push legislation through in Lansing. Eventually, he helped lawmakers get a right-to-work law passed, a big victory for the economy he claimed.