Dick DeVos and his wife, Betsy, are well known in Michigan. Dick DeVos is a licensed pilot and the son of co-founder Richard DeVos, who started the company Amway. He feels strongly about education reform and has helped with the expansion of charter schools, with the help of Betsy. They have a vast array of interests and have spent much of their time trying to change institution and policies.
One such success story was the $12.5 million they donated toward the construction of a children’s hospital in Grand Rapids. It was named after Dick DeVos’ mother, Helen DeVos. The children’s hospital has allowed families to remain at home and not to have to travel long distances or take time off work whenever their child needed to receive medical care.
Education reform is another area where they have pushed for changes. Betsy DeVos feels strongly about the expansion of charter schools. They feel that children from poor families should have the same educational opportunities as their own kids had.
One unique public charter high school is West Michigan Aviation Academy. It started out in an old office space with 80 students and is now at Gerald R. Ford International Airport with its own building and over 600 students. The charter school offers aviation classes in every grade which includes plane maintenance, electronics and pilot instruction. A student doesn’t have to want to become a pilot to attend. The school also offers classes in computer science, robotic systems and aerospace engineering. Part of Dick and Betsy DeVos’ interest in aviation stems from the fact that Dick DeVos is licensed to fly single engine planes, jets and helicopters.
Their efforts to reform education have not always succeeded. In 2000, Michigan voters rejected a constitutional amendment to create tax funded vouchers for the students who desire to attend private schools. After this defeat, they went to other states for private school vouchers, and 24 states now have some form of amendment for vouchers for private schools.
Dick DeVos also lost in a campaign for governor in 2006.
They have donated millions of dollars to multiple programs, including leadership programs, health services, and education reform. In 2012, Dick DeVos helped convert a law that made Michigan a right-to-work state where union membership was no longer required for employment of organized labor.
Both Dick and Betsy DeVos now have positions in Washington DC. President Donald Trump has appointed Betsy DeVos US Secretary of Education.
Dick DeVos has played a large role in convincing Southwest to offer routes out of the Grand Rapids airport. Within a short period of time, the airport has seen twice the national average and is now in the middle of an upgrade that will be completed in 2018. Dick DeVos has been appointed to the top civilian panel that oversees the Federal Aviation Administration. This is a three-year term, and he serves in a volunteer capacity.
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