Dick DeVos, Jr.: Spreading the Wealth One School at a Time

Financial prosperity and material abundance are blessings that can be wasted, hoarded or shared. Many lottery winners fritter away their windfalls and the world certainly has no shortage of rich misers. Yet those who give away large portions of their wealth—especially when come by through old-fashioned, honest effort—not only alleviate suffering and bring hope to the needy, but also set an example for their fellow citizens. Such is the case with Dick DeVos, Jr.

 

The son of a founder of the network marketing giant, the Amway Corporation, DeVos was raised with a benevolent ethic. In fact, DeVos, Sr. and his children were listed among the top 25 charitable givers in the United States in 2015. With his wife Betsy (now U.S. Secretary of Education), DeVos, Jr. distributed $11.6 million in philanthropic gifts through his family foundation that very same year. Educational institutions rank significantly high among the recipients, demonstrating a passion and priority for the DeVoses. Both husband and wife are committed to education reform, including charter schools and vouchers to enhance parental choice. DeVos maintains that their gifts cut across socio-economic lines, and that the benefits are seen in positive student outcomes.

 

While most of the dollars earmarked for educational causes are targeted for institutions—public and private—in his home state of Michigan, including a science-intensive aviation high school, Christian schools and state colleges, DeVos does not neglect other areas of need. For example, his funds make possible a groundbreaking arts management program at the University of Maryland. Moreover, he gives to civic improvement causes, pediatric cancer tratments, public policy research, churches and religious organizations. Notably, these endowments dwarf the political contribution totals that were so controversial during Betsy DeVos’ confirmation process.

 

While a son of comfortable upbringing, Dick DeVos, Jr. is by no means a stranger to personal responsibility and hard work. Working his way up the ladder at Amway, he eventually supervised operations in 18 countries overseas. Eager to accomplish outside of the family business, he then founded The Windquest Group, a producer and distributor of closet organizers and storage compartments. Family obligations drew him back in 1991, when he assumed executive leadership of the NBA’s Orlando Magic franchise, a DeVos-owned enterprise. Since then, he served as president of Amway—restructuring the organization along the way—and ran for governor of Michigan in 2006 (he lost). He now concentrates on Windquest, charity and political causes.

 

Betsy DeVos partnered closely with Dick in advocating for educational reforms, a stance that earned her intense hostility from teachers unions and public school lobbies. After contentious debates, she was narrowly confirmed as Education Secretary (by one vote) in 2017. With Betsy, Dick DeVos, Jr. has four children.