The year was 1991 when a plan to develop a multi-purpose sports and convention arena in Grand Rapids, north of downtown, was released to the public. During that time, Dick Devos was working for Amway Corporation, owned by his family, and he was not for the construction of the convention arena. He reasoned that the project could be destructive to the area just like Pontiac Silverdome and Palace of Auburn Hills were also destructive in Detroit after the Lions and Pistons moved elsewhere.
Due to his campaign efforts against the building of the sports facility, Grand Action was born. Grand Action is a body of business heads who were partially responsible for the construction of the DeVos Place Convention Center, DeVos Performance Hall, Van Andel Arena, Michigan State University’s medical school, and the Grand Rapid City Market.
Dick and Betsy Devos have spent a good part of their adult lives trying to bring positive changes to institutions and policies. They both have political influence aiding them to push for changes in state laws that affect education and labor. In the recent past, Betsy Devos triumphantly pushed for the enlargement of charter schools while Dick Devos designed the 2012 law which transformed Michigan to a right-to-work state doing away with the precondition that one had to be a member of a union to be employed.
Besides his political influence, Dick Devos is a charitable man, actively involved and contributing to philanthropic causes. The Dick and Betsy Devos Foundation has donated roughly $138.7 million to arts and culture, health services, leadership programs, churches, and not to forget the policy initiatives aiming at education reforms and private school scholarships. Also, Dick and Betsy Devos made the foremost donation of $12.5 million to a project for the building of a children’s hospital, named after Helen Devos, Dick’s mother, worth $103 million in the Spectrum Health System.
The Devos’ are big on education reforms and in conjunction to this, they founded an aviation charter high school, West Michigan Aviation Academy, at Grand Rapids International Airport. The school has aviation classes in every grade which include history, aircraft maintenance, electronics and pilot instruction. The school’s population has increased from just 80 students to about 600 students. The Devos’ goal drives their philanthropy in the education sector, that of having children from less privileged families have the same opportunity their children had.
In other news, the US Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao reported that Dick Devos was on the list of the seven new members of a panel that oversees the Federal Aviation Administration. Here, together with the other panel members, he advises the FAA’s senior management on spending, policy, planning and regulatory issues.
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