Anyone with doubts regarding the commitment of Dick Devos to his hometown need only to familiarize themselves with a series of events that took place in the early 1990s.
Dick DeVos was working at his Amway Corp in 1991. He was well on his way to taking over as CEO of the company his father started when he became aware of a plan from a group of developers to build an arena for sports and conventions in the downtown area of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The response from DeVos was to pick up the phone and push back against the idea.
DeVos’ problem with the planned arena was his memory of the damage caused by a similar course of action in nearby Detroit. The Palace at Auburn Hills and Pontiac Silverdome was built in downtown Detroit to accommodate the Detroit Pistons of the NBA and Detroit Lions of the NFL, respectively. The city suffered from the project when both teams abandoned Detroit for other cities.
DeVos partnered with a group of local business leaders to form the Grand Action group. The group not only thwarted the plans for the downtown arena but ended up completing several notable improvements to the Grand Rapids skyline themselves. Constructions attributed to Grand Action include DeVos Place Convention Center, Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids City Market, and the DeVos Performance Hall.
Dick DeVos is the husband of the current U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. Both of them are heirs to considerable fortunes. The couple has used the power afforded to them to affect the institutions and policies that affect the lives of fellow Grand Rapids residents. The status the couple enjoys as megadonors for the Republican Party has also contributed to their ability to implement and change laws that affect education and employment laws in their home city and the state of Michigan.
The generosity the DeVos’ have shown to Grand Rapids is another point that is not up for debate. The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation provided various programs with $138.7 million from 1989 to 2015. Programs to promote arts and culture, leadership, religion, health services, and education reform were among the organizations that benefitted from the generosity displayed by Dick and Betsy DeVos.
The couple believes the education system in America needs an overhaul and long for a day when all children attend schools that allow them to develop to their fullest potential. The commitment to education reform the couple has shown is one reason Betsy DeVos received an appointment from President Donald Trump to join his cabinet as the Education Secretary.