In 1991, urban sprawl was on its way to Grand Rapids. A group of business and city leaders wanted to build a sports and concert venue outside the city of Grand Rapids. Dick DeVos heard about the plans and said no.
DeVos said that the city shouldn’t forget about Detroit’s urban sprawl problem. He said the Pontiac Silverdome and the Palace of Auburn Hills are a telltale warning of what can happen when the biggest facilities are built outside of the city.
Instead of simply working to stop the project from becoming a reality outside of the city limits, DeVos worked to bring the project downtown. His group Grand Action led the development of concert and convention venue DeVos Place, sporting arena and concert venue Van Andel Arena and the Grand Rapids City Market. They also worked to bring a medical school to the downtown. Students can now earn their medical degree in Grand Rapids from Michigan State University. Cooley Law School has also taken up residence in the city’s south side.
DeVos became CEO of Amyway Corporation in 1993. He took over the large, multinational company from his father, Richard DeVos. DeVos met Betsy Prince while studying at Calvin College. Betsy DeVos is now the U.S. Secretary of Education under President Donald Trump. The pair have children and grandchildren. Their eldest child, Rick DeVos, runs Art Prize, the annual Grand Rapids art competition.
While DeVos has spent much of his time keeping urban sprawl from taking over Grand Rapids, he and Betsy have also put their efforts into lobbying and politics. They’ve lobbied for changes in state education and labor laws. Their efforts have meant more charter schools and right-to-work legislation in the state.
The family’s charity project, the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, has given away more than $100 million to charities in a variety of fields including arts, culture, human health, religion and education reform initiatives. They donated several million dollars to build a children’s hospital in Grand Rapids. It’s named after family matriarch Helen DeVos. They say the purpose of the world-class hospital is to allow families to stay in Grand Rapids for specialized care rather than needing to travel to the Mayo Clinic, Chicago or Ann Arbor.
Even Grand Rapids International Airport has felt the DeVos influence. They founded and started an aviation charter school that’s located right at the airport. They say they want kids from lower-income families to have the same opportunities that their own children had. The DeVos children attended Grand Rapids Christian Schools.
The DeVos family says that it’s all about giving parents more options to choose from. However, voters rejected Dick DeVos’ bid for Michigan governor. Taxpayers also rejected their efforts to initiate a voucher-based school of choice program throughout the state.
The U.S. Senate narrowly confirmed Betsy DeVos as U.S. Education Secretary. Some say she wasn’t qualified for the position because she doesn’t have experience in public education. Others said that her experience in advocacy makes her a qualified education leader for the nation. Learn more: http://www.newnetherlandinstitute.org/history-and-heritage/dutch_americans/richard-dick-devos-jr/