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.