A Lesson in Hands-On Philanthropy, Dick DeVos
To me, Dick DeVos was simply the President of the Windquest Group and husband of Betsy DeVos, little did I know that he is also a man with a long-standing executive career and active philanthropist. He began his career at his father’s company, Amway, in 1974 but left in 1991 to serve as President and CEO of Orlando Magic. He then returned to Amway in 1993 to follow in his father’s footsteps as President of the company until 2002. DeVos left to launch and serve as President of the Windquest group and step out of Richard Sr.’s shadow. However, he has kept with family tradition when it comes to charitable donations, making them great in number and great in impact.
Dick DeVos has placed a heavy focus on education, with 26% of his charitable donations in 2015 going towards education and yet another 3% to organizations that support education reform as he does. DeVos has made it his ambition to aide in making a quality education something every student has access to, instead of something dependent on the zip code. He and his family take much care in checking the quality of the schools to which they donate to encourage and uphold this high education standard. One way in particular that they have done so is by launching an aviation-themed charter school, the West Michigan Aviation Academy, in 2010. The school provides education on STEM, aeronautical engineering, and aviation robotics to provide the students with a specific and highly employable skillset. Of the students, a third are economically disadvantaged and 40% are classified as minorities, and all are chartered to the school from the 7 surrounding counties. The academy has a graduation rate of an impressive 86% yet DeVos is more impressed by the profoundly positive impact it has on the students’ lives and by reaching the standards of the parents.
Almost equal in importance to Dick DeVos are his contributions to arts and culture. 21% of his charitable donations were in support of arts and culture in 2015. Twenty-two million was given for the express purpose of creating the DeVos Institute of Arts Management for the University of Maryland. He sought to improve the standing of the importance arts management in the arts community, believing that the business aspect is prominent in the success of the global art community. He and Betsy also secured the recruitment of a top physician and researcher in childhood cancer with their donation to the Spectrum Health Foundation. This led to a substantial increase in the survival rate of the children treated at the Helen DeVos Children Hospital for their brain cancer. Dick DeVos and his family not only provide monetary gifts but often play an active role in how those gifts are used in order to make them have a greater purpose.