Richard DeVos Jr. is a man of many talents and many titles, such as entrepreneur, philanthropist, activist, and pilot. He is also the son of Amway co-founder Richard DeVos, and husband to the U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. As Crain’s Detroit Business chronicled in June of 2017, Richard has a long history of taking charge and fighting for the things he believes in. While he primarily works out of his home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he and his wife are known across all of the United States for their work in education reform.
At 62 years old, Richard has spent much of his time working as a community leader. In 1991, he helped form Grand Action, a group of local business leaders working together to better their home in Grand Rapids. They helped with the creation of several cultural centers such as the Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place Convention Center, and the Michigan State University’s medical school. He also helped reinvigorate the Gerald R. Ford International Airport by using his business contacts to bring in more routes and drive airfares down for passengers. Thanks to his efforts, the airport was able to fund $45 million in upgrades, expected to be completed sometime in 2018.
Richard’s interests in aviation are not just financial. In September of 2017, the Federal Aviation Administration named him to their Management Advisory Council. The council is comprised of thirteen civilian members who, according to FAA representative Gregory Martin, “chart the strategic course of the agency.” They advise the FAA on issues such as long-term planning and regulatory matters. He also founded the West Michigan Aviation Academy in 2010. It is a nonprofit charter high school, which offers a standard curriculum as well as courses on aviation and engineering. Like most charter schools, it is tuition free to students and instead relies on funding from a combination of private donors and a per-student allowance from the state. The school has over 600 students, and since opening, it has had three graduating classes.
The charter model the school uses is one he and his wife have been championing for a long time. They have advocated across the country to promote the voucher system. Their hope is to provide students with affordable educational options outside of public schools. So far, the couple has been victorious in getting twenty-four states to create voucher programs.
While Richard has inherited and earned a wealth measured in billions, he has not been one to sit on his money. He and Betsy regularly donate money to numerous charities, and since 1989, they have given over $138 million. One of their larger donations was $12.5 million to the construction of a children’s hospital in 2006, now named after Richard’s mother, Helen.
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