When many people hear the name Dick DeVos, they immediately associate him with politics. This is, of course, perfectly understandable. The longtime, prominent republican was the 2006 republican front-runner for governor of Michigan. In the highly publicized and hotly contested race, DeVos was ever so slightly beat out by the incumbent governor, Jennifer Granholm. DeVos famously spent more than $35 million of his own money on the race, nearly the entirety of the total spent for his campaign. He is still the wealthiest person to have ever run for the governorship in the state of Michigan’s history.


However, when it comes to charitable donations the normal association that people have with the name DeVos and politics is no longer anywhere even close to being true. The truth is that DeVos charitable contributions to non political causes absolutely dwarf his political contributions. 2015 alone, DeVos donated almost $12 million to charitable causes, most of which went to directly helping Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens. For that same year, his political contributions barely reached $1 million.


Along with his wife, Betsy DeVos, DeVos believes that charity starts at home. And he’s not afraid to put his money where his mouth is. DeVos has done tremendous good for the West Michigan community. He is largely responsible for what many in the education industry referred to as an educational miracle. And he has funded one of the educations greatest success stories, the West Michigan Aviation Academy.


West Michigan Aviation Academy is a charter school, devised personally by DeVos, that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math with a special focus on aviation applications within those fields. The school also has a large number of aircraft, including twin-engine airplanes and a helicopter. In fact, DeVos personally donated the first aircraft to the school.


The school has been a phenomenal success. With a student body made up of more than 40 percent minorities, West Michigan Aviation Academy consistently ranks in the top decile of school performance on all standardized tests. In education circles this is a near miraculous accomplishment, given that over 33 percent of West Michigan Aviation Academy’s student body is considered to be economically disadvantaged, a cohort that is notoriously unable to score well on standardized testing.


All told, DeVos’ contributions to West Michigan Aviation Academy total millions of dollars.




Dick DeVos and Betsy DeVos has been in the news for their contributions to the political donations, but those are just the icebergs compared to the donations that they have made to the charitable institutions in the country and those outside of it. The DeVos family had donated about $1.33 billion through their lifetime out of their $5.2 billion estimated fortune. In 2015 alone, the couple had given $11.6 million to different charitable institutions as I could infer from their website.



The primary beneficiary of Dick DeVos donations was to educational causes. In 2015, their main contribution, about 26 percent of their total contribution, was to educational purposes. Also, they awarded about $375,000 to different groups that were supporting education reform something which Betsy DeVos significantly support. It is this contribution that showcases what their priority in life is and it is to improve the education system in the country. They think that the current system is not fulfilling the American student’s dream and it is through this little contribution they would like to support educational reforms and help achieve the necessary steps required for the American dream to be achieved.



After education, their top priority is Arts and Culture, and the couple donated about $2.4 million to the cause. They started the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland. The remaining part of their donations went to civic, community and other; leadership and development, public policy and others. The couple does not dictate the organizations they donate to on how to spend the money they contribute. It is only when they feel something will make a difference, do they advise them.



The couple includes their five children in the all the decisions that they make about donating the money. In my opinion, it was because of this, that they added the word ‘family’ to their foundation to show this approach. According to Dick DeVos, their children offer them a new perspective on the different places that the couple should donate to. Also, they also propose about the kind of donations that they should make and what will make a difference to the cause.



Dick DeVos has held a number of executive positions throughout his business career. From 1993 to 2002, he was the President of Amway and overlooked operations of the company in about 50 countries spreading across six continents. Before that, he served as the Vice-President of the company from 1984 till he was made the President in 1993 and was responsible for its operation in countries outside of North America. It was under his leadership that the company started its business in more international markets and tripled its sales. He was also the President and CEO of Orlando Magic for three years after its family acquired the company.