The plan to build a convention arena and sports complex in downtown Grand Rapids in 1991 was scuttled before it was able to take the first step because of Dick Devos. This rich scion from the wealthy DeVos clan started to lobby against the project when he got hold of it.
At that time, DeVos was still on his way to being the CEO of Amway Corp., a company that is owned by his family. He was concerned that the proposed complex and convention center will cause the demise of his beloved hometown.
He was well aware of the disaster that happened to Detroit in the 1970s when the Pistons and the Lions left this city. When these sports teams left, the Palace of Auburn Hills and the Pontiac Silverdome were no longer able to attract its usual patrons and customers. These huge playgrounds have no more sports club that will induce sports fans to pay up and fill up its thousands of seats.
Devos wouldn’t want the same thing to happen in Grand Rapids. So he started to work against the project. He called people and tried to move organizations to stop the project from even starting. His campaign was the spark that led to the establishment of Grand Action, a cause-oriented team of business leaders.
This group became the driving force in the construction of the medical school of the Michigan State University, the City Market in Grand Rapids, the Van Andel Arena, the DeVos Performance Hall and the Place Convention Center. These structures did not only change the skyline of Grand Rapids, it also changed the direction in the Grand Rapids has controlled suburban sprawl.
Dick is married to Betsy Prince. Both are scions of wealthy Michigan families. They have spent most of their adult lives trying to change policies and institutions. Dick and Betsy have donated considerable amount of money to the Republican Party. As such, they have influenced major changes in the laws of the state affecting labor and education.
They founded the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation which reportedly gave away the amount of $138.7 million from 1989 to 2015 to churches, human services, arts and culture and leadership programs. Part of this amount was also spent in supporting policy initiatives that focused on educational reform and on scholarships of students for private schools.
Dick and Betsy also gave the leading donation for the construction of a children’s hospital under the Spectrum Health System. Their donation amounted to $12.5 million. The total cost of building the hospital is about $103 million. Upon completion, the hospital was named after Dick’s mother, Helen DeVos.
This children’s hospital, according to Dick, has enabled families of patients to stay at home. Parents are also no longer forced to take time off from work to get to Ann Arbor or Chicago or Mayo (Clinic) just to receive medical care.
Apart from giving to charities, Dick and Betsy are also advocates of school and educational reforms. Their focus is on giving children from poor families the same opportunities that rich kids have.
To learn more, visit http://www.dbdvfoundation.org/.