Dick And Betsy DeVos: Champions For Improving The American Education System


Dick and Betsy DeVos are known for their generous political donations. However, those sums pale in comparison with their charitable contributions. In the past few decades, the two have donated over $135 million to several types of charities.

Latest Philanthropic Efforts

The couple recently unveiled a series of donations that will be processed through their charitable foundation. In 2015, Dick and Betsy gave $11.6 million to charitable causes. During that year, their charitable contributions were double the amount of their political contributions. For many decades, the DeVos family donated money to American Republican candidates in various roles. When combined with the charitable donations of Dick’s father and three brothers, the total family contribution was $104 million in 2015 alone. Their combined generosity earned the family a spot on a list of America’s top givers. The list was compiled by Forbes. In the publication, the author also noted that the family’s combined lifetime contributions to charitable causes exceeded $1.33 billion. That figure is about one-fourth of the DeVos family’s total wealth.

Philanthropic Priority: Education

In West Michigan, cars and clothes do not impress residents who live in the wealthiest communities. Charitable contributions are much more impressive to them. For this reason, the DeVos name has been respected for many decades. Dick and Betsy place a high priority on learning and give to educational charities. The pair donated $3 million to educational charities in 2015. That amount marked 25 percent of their charitable contributions for the year. Additionally, their foundation gave over $350,000 to causes that fight for education reform.

According to Dick DeVos, the current educational system is not living up to its potential. He pointed out that children in poorer areas have lacked access to quality education for decades. Since they face additional hardships, they are less likely to achieve their goals or have good jobs in the future. Dick and Betsy have donated considerable sums to charter schools and voucher programs that give children in poorer areas access to better schools. Although critics have complained that such programs take tax money from public schools, Dick pointed out that having a choice is better for children and their parents than being forced to attend a low-quality school.

Also, Dick and Betsy donate to programs that improve the inner-city schools that some parents wish to avoid. Dick said that there are educators and administrators who are committed to building a better environment that meets the needs of children who come from poorer families. Since Dick and Betsy admire the enthusiasm of such individuals, they are happy to make donations to their programs. Although Dick and Betsy have donated to educational causes across the country, most of their educational donations have been awarded to schools in their home state of Michigan.

In 2013, Dick and Betsy donated $50,000 to the Compass College of Cinematic Arts in Grand Rapids. They gave $25,000 to Detroit Charter School’s New Urban Learning initiative, and they donated $100,000 to Ferris State University. Dick DeVos donated $200,000 to Northwood University, which is where he attended college. Dick and Betsy donated over $300,000 to West Michigan Aviation Academy and also to Potter’s House in Wyoming. They gave $50,000 to Rehoboth Christian School in New Mexico. The school is known for being controlled mostly by parents.

According to Dick DeVos, he and Betsy choose their donation recipients based on accountability, supervision and environment. He said that they carefully choose organizations with academic rigor. Dick and Betsy helped start the country’s first charter school for aviation. It is at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. In addition to donating money, the couple sponsored a gala to raise funds from A-list guests. Their event featured speakers such as George W. Bush and famous astronauts.

In 2016, there were 15 graduates of the aviation school. Dick DeVos was proud of the organization and its contribution to robotics and aeronautical engineering training. Kids from surrounding counties attended the school. Dick said that over 30 percent of the high school students who attended the facility were economically disadvantaged, and about 40 percent of them were minorities. The school’s graduation rate that year was 86 percent. In addition to the children learning valuable technical skills, their educators said that their attitudes and perspectives improved as they excelled in their courses.

Philanthropic Priority: Arts And Culture

Although education is their top priority, Dick and Betsy also donated over $2.4 million to arts and culture in 2015. In the past, they spent $22 million to launch the DeVos Institute of Arts and Management in Maryland. One of their goals was to support Michael Kaiser’s plan to enhance business education for organizations in the arts. Dick said that the diverse arts community must have high-quality arts management to succeed in the future.

After education, arts and culture, Dick and Betsy contribute most of their donations to civic, community, health, public policy, political and religious organizations. Although some of their donations are earmarked for specific uses, Dick and Betsy are known for donating generously without attaching any requirements.

About Dick And Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos is the Secretary of Education and is also a Michigan Republican Party chairperson. She is the daughter of Edgar Prince. He was a billionaire who was known for founding Prince Corporation. Betsy attended college at Calvin College in Grand Rapids. She was actively involved in campus politics. She earned a bachelor’s degree in economics. Betsy has been involved in American politics since 1976. At that time, she was a campaign volunteer for Gerald Ford. Over the years, she held numerous roles in political action committees and party organizations. She and her husband started the DeVos Family Foundation in 1989 to distribute money to charities.

Dick DeVos is the son of Richard DeVos. Richard is known for being the co-founder of Amway. Dick served as the CEO of Amway until 2002. He studied business administration at Northwood University. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, he went on to attend Harvard Business School and Wharton School before joining his father’s company. In 2010, the Art of Giving Award was presented to Dick by the Spectrum Health Foundation. Dick serves as a board member with several health and education organizations. Additionally, he is the president of the Windquest Group. When Dick and Betsy are not busy with charitable causes and work, they enjoy spending time with their four children.