Dick Devos: Hometown and Education Advocate

Richard Marvin Devos Jr. or Dick Devos is a businessman, entrepreneur, and author. He has shown his support and appreciation to his hometown, Grand Rapids, countless times. One event that stood out to him and the people close to him was when a multi-purpose arena was supposed to be built in the downtown area of the city.


The year was 1991, and Dick Devos learned about the project. The future CEO of Amway Corp immediately tried his best to put a stop to the plan. For him, there were several reasons why the idea should not materialize.


He recalled the time when momentous constructions in Detroit hurt the city. The Palace of Auburn Hills and the Pontiac Silverdome were controversial buildings in Detroit. They caused great changes in the town and among them included driving famed sports teams, namely the Pistons and the Lions, back in the 70s.


Devos who became the CEO from 1993 to 2002 of his family-owned business Amway could not forget what the event taught the people of Detroit. He did not want the same thing to happen to those in Grand Rapids. Campaigning against the convention center required dedication, but he found support from other wealthy individuals who were not in favor of the construction as well.


The group of business leaders formed the Grand Action to halt the building of the sports facility north of downtown. It was a successful campaign, and the residents are thankful for the result. Instead of the convention center, better buildings took the space, including the Grand Rapids City Market, the medical school of the Michigan State University, the Van Andel Arena, and the Devos Place Convention Center.


Supporting Education


One of the top priorities of the Devos family was to reform education in the country. Betsy Devos, Dick Devos’ wife, is the current Secretary of Education of the US. Together, their efforts led to the growth of a public charter school in Michigan. In 2010, Betsy encouraged her husband to start a charter school, which is now called the West Michigan Aviation Academy. The outstanding public high school began with only 80 students.


This particular nonprofit charter school had a simple location, which was at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. From the derelict office space to its own building with more than 600 students who hail from seven counties, the Devos family is proud of what the educational institution has become as they look back to its humble beginnings.


Hometown Appreciation


For decades, Dick and Betsy have been trying to bring change to their hometown. As heirs of affluent families, they used their fortunes to donate to the Grand Old Party (GOP). The Devos’ influence on the Republican Party resulted in a few significant changes in labor and education laws throughout the state.


Together with Betsy, Mr. Devos aimed to help make Grand Rapids International Airport recognized in the country. He talked to the CEO of AirTran Airways and asked for a meeting. It was a success, allowing Grand Rapids to receive incoming flights from the Ford Airport.


Visit http://www.dbdvfoundation.org/about to learn more.

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