In 1991, when DeVos was on the verge of becoming the CEO of Amway Corp, a plan was publicly announced about the construction of a convention and multipurpose sports arena in the north of downtown.
Dick DeVos was not pleased by the idea, because he saw the potential of the arena having a negative effect, just like in the 1970s when the construction of the Palace of Auburn Hills and the Pontiac Silverdome impacted the move of the Pistons and Lions to leave Detroit.
When DeVos picked his phone to campaign against the construction of the sports facility, the Grand Action was formed. This group is basically a group of businesses leaders who spearheaded the construction of the DeVos Place Convention Center, the Van Andel Arena, the Michigan State University medical school, the Grand Rapids City Market and the DeVos Performance Hall. Their impact was felt, and the construction of the sports arena was halted.
Since Betsy and Dick DeVos are heirs to two family fortunes, they have spent a lot of their time trying to bring change to the policies and institutions in place. They have great political influence because they are mega-donors of the GOP, which has helped them to influence a lot of changes in state laws that touch on labor and education.
For instance, politically speaking, Betsy DeVos is the current U.S Education Secretary, while DeVos is a member of the seven-team who spearheads the U.S Department of Transportation. The 13 member team advises the FAA on policy, regulatory matters, spending, and long-range planning.
Additionally, DeVos also played a big part in ensuring that the Gerald R. Ford International Airport opened routes out of Grand Rapids airport to lower airfares and spur growth in passengers who were traveling through the airport. DeVos and his wife are also co-founders of the Michigan Aviation Academy that was chartered in 2010 to prepare students for the aviation industry.
Apart from their political influence, they also spearhead other philanthropy causes like the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. The foundation was reported to have contributed $138.7 million to different fields like health and human services, arts and culture, leadership programs, policy initiatives based on educational reforms and private school scholarship, between 1989 and 2015.
In 2006, the couple donated $12.5 million to the construction of the $103 million hospitals for children in the Spectrum Health System that was named after Amway’s co-founder’s wife, Helen Devos, who is also Dick’s mother. Families are now able to stay at home and parents to avoid traveling to distant places to receive care.
The beauty of the education reforms the DeVos family is working on is how it allows children from low-income families to receive the the same opportunities that their kids experience. Even though they have good intentions, they have not managed to sway the public their way.
Even though the public is still digesting how to classify the DeVos family, president Donald Trump decided to appoint Betsy as the U.S Secretary of Education to spearhead the changes that would impact school choice programs.
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