Dick DeVos is well-known for his successes in the business world. A one-time owner of the Orlando Magic, DeVos also worked for Amway as a Vice President starting in 1984. Today he’s involved in a number of ventures, including Windquest Group. But business is not his only interest. Dick DeVos has long been a mover and shaker in his home state. He even ran for governor there in 2006.
Dick DeVos was born and raised in Michigan. As a kid, he attended public schools and hung around the family business with his Dad. Though his family was wealthy, Dick DeVos was raised to work for what he had and to treat his fellow man with respect. That’s part of the reason that he was so disturbed by changes to the Grand Rapids area as he aged.
By the time he had a family of his own, Michigan had changed. Once the heartland and the industrial engine of America, Michigan had now been hit by recessions and the movement of manufacturing jobs to other countries. Worse yet, the public schools weren’t preparing young people for the workforce. They were failing the whole community. DeVos was dismayed by the decline in the Grand Rapids area. He coped by getting active in the business and political communities.
DeVos was quick to head off proposals that didn’t make sense for Grand Rapids. These bad ideas included convention centers and sports arenas. DeVos had seen how they sucked the life out of other downtowns. He rallied support behind a more sense-making development strategy for Grand Rapids.
Because of his private wealth, DeVos was also able to give generously to worthy organizations in the area. For example, the children’s hospital in Grand Rapids is now named after his mother, Helen DeVos. He was a driver in decisions including bringing Michigan State University’s medical school to Grand Rapids. One of his favorite causes, and one that his wife champions, is school vouchers. By allowing parents to choose where their tax dollars and children would go, vouchers revolutionized education in Michigan.
Like his wife, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, school choice is a key issue for Dick. He was the driving force behind a charter school that prepares young people to work in the aviation industry. Grand Rapids is home to a major airport. DeVos not only wants these kids to enter the workforce ready to succeed. He hopes they’ll stay close to home, and help Grand Rapids continue to recover as a community.
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