Most people in the United States didn’t know the names Dick and Betsy DeVos until Donald Trump selected Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. However, residents of Grand Rapids, Michigan know the names well. That’s because the dynamic pair has been advocating for local community development for decades.
Dick DeVos was serving as a leader in family-owned business Amway Corporation when he heard that business leaders wanted to install a major entertainment venue north of Grand Rapids. DeVos put his personal interests aside and picked up the phone. He wasn’t going to let the venue open outside of the city limits where it would contribute to urban sprawl. DeVos saw what happened when major sports venues set up outside of the City of Detroit. He didn’t want urban sprawl to come to Grand Rapids.
Ultimately, DeVos’ efforts succeeded. When the Van Andel Arena opened in Grand Rapids a short time later, it was located downtown. People from all walks of life travel downtown to attend sporting events, concerts and even political rallies. The arena was only the first of a resurgence of development in the downtown area. Today, if you travel to downtown Grand Rapids, you can see condominiums, new hotels, a law school and state-of-the-art medical facilities. DeVos also lead the effort to install DeVos Place, an upscale concert venue, downtown Grand Rapids a few years later.
Although DeVos failed to win the governor’s seat for Michigan, DeVos didn’t stop finding ways to contribute to his community. Among other projects, the family is highly involved in several education initiatives. One of the projects is an aviation-themed charter school. The school serves high school students and operates out of Grand Rapids Ford International Airport.
DeVos, himself, is a trained pilot. He says that the project is an important way to provide a high-quality education for individuals from all walks of life. It’s also a way that he shares his love of flying with students in his hometown.
Dick and Betsy DeVos met at Calvin College, a private, liberal arts college on the east side of Grand Rapids. They raised their children in the greater Grand Rapids area. Betsy DeVos is originally from Holland, Michigan. Holland is a thirty-minute drive from Grand Rapids. The DeVos family maintains property in the Holland area.
DeVos’ eldest son, Rick DeVos, is the founder and leader of Art Prize. Art Prize is an open art competition in Grand Rapids. Held biannually, the competition awards prizes based on expert adjudication as well as based on a public vote. Members of the public can vote for their favorites as well as view the artwork without charge throughout the City of Grand Rapids. The competition occurs in late September.
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