When Dick Devos heard of plans in the early 1990s to build new athletics complexes north of Grand Rapids, he quickly moved to oppose the efforts. Building north of the city, he concluded, was highly likely to harm the downtown area. Devos knew what had happened only a few hours away in Detroit, where the city built the Pontiac Superdome and Palace at Oakland Hills outside of Detroit proper. While those teams got their new buildings, Detroit’s downtown suffered. People had moved out to the suburbs, and with stadiums placed elsewhere, downtown development was little more than a dream. Faced with the same proposition for Grand Rapids, Devos acted to block the effort.
He didn’t necessarily want to stop the development of new sports complexes for Grand Rapids. Much to the contrary, Devos was instrumental in pushing for a host of new developments in the city. With a team of partners, Devos would later champion projects like the Van Andel Arena, the Devos Performance Hall, and even a Convention Center complex that bears his family name. To say that Dick Devos was a major driving force behind the revitalization of Grand Rapids would be a severe understatement.
Devos made the bulk of his fortune as the head of Amway, the major American seller that transformed its industry. Since then, he and his wife Betsy have dedicated themselves to a host of projects. In addition to ensuring the continuing growth of Grand Rapids, Dick Devos has established a foundation that has given away more than $100 million to leadership programs. His goal of helping develop new leaders for the region and the country has been his new life’s work. It pairs well with the work of his wife, who was tapped as Secretary of Education by President Donald Trump.
Devos has supported his wife’s attempts to reform the education system by pushing for school choice and the empowerment of charter schools. Both Dick and his wife have seen the important effective that education can have. In trying to find good schools for their children, the pair was dismayed by how difficult it was for average parents to push their kids into schools that would provide a launching pad for future achievement. With this in mind, Betsy became an advocate for school choice around the country, and the two have put millions of their own money into efforts to support that movement.
Dick Devos has also spent time working on behalf of workers, pushing a right-to-work movement in Michigan that allows employees to hold jobs without having to be a part of unions. On top of that, he became an accomplished pilot. Recently, he was appointed to the top civilian oversight board of the Federal Aviation Administration, where he will help oversee the strategic operations and future of the agency. To say that Devos has his hands in many different ventures would surely be true. Between Devos and his wife, the two are looking to remake the world for the better with their collective efforts.
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