Few people in America are under as much scrutiny as Dick and Betsy DeVos. While their sizable political contributions garner most of the headlines, they are practically nothing when compared to the couples charitable contributions. During their lifetime Dick and Betsy DeVos have contributed almost $139 million to various organizations. Since the nomination of Betsy DeVos as U.S. Education Secretary by President Donald Trump and the controversy it has caused in some quarters, the couple has decided it is time to clarify a few things about their donations.
The DeVos family have supported the GOP for decades, going back to Dick’s father Amway co-founder Richard DeVos. As reported to the federal government, part of the vetting process for Betsy’s Cabinet position, the family made political donations of $5.3 million, over the last five years, this pales in comparison to the $11.6 million Dick and Betsy DeVos made in charitable contributions in 2015 alone. Total donations from the family, including DeVos senior and his four adult children, were $104 million in 2015. Their donations have been primarily to educational programs in the state of Michigan. Schools such as Northwood University in Midland, Ferris State University, West Michigan Aviation Academy, and the Rehoboth Christian School are among the many that have benefited from donations from Dick and Betsy DeVos. DeVos points out, these are not contributions to political organizations trying to promote a political agenda but are donations that will help people directly.
For Dick and Betsy DeVos their priority is education. In 2015 26 percent of their donations went directly to educational causes, plus another 3 percent to organizations that promote education reform. Dick and Betsy believe there is a way to improve our one-size-fits-all education system, feeling that many children are denied access to the American dream because of the zip code they live in, deeming it a civil rights issue. They are not critical of the teachers or administrators who are working hard and accomplishing wonderful things. However, they feel it is important to create an environment where these talented and hard working educators can be even more useful and hopefully reach even more children.
Dick DeVos has been a part of the family business since he was a child. As a boy he attended Amway’s annual conventions, doing everything from greeting guests, to washing dishes and ferrying guest to play tennis or waterski. Dick started his official career with Amway in 1974 working in different divisions of the company, gaining experience in R&D, manufacturing, marketing, sales, and finance. Becoming a vice president in 1984, he was in charge of operations in 18 countries. During his tenure, Amway opened several new markets and tripled foreign sales, and for the first time in company history, these sales outpaced domestic production. Dick was named President of Amway in 1993 and held the position until 2002, where he was responsible for operations in 50 countries covering six continents.