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Dick DeVos may not be known by the general public, but his name is synonymous with progress in Michigan.


DeVos, the son of Amway co-founder Rich DeVos, was appointed in 2017 to the civilian Management Advisory Council. The 13-member board is the adviser to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)on issues like spending, policy, regulations and long-range planning.


DeVos’ wife is more familiar to the American public. He is married to Betsy DeVos, the newly appointed Secretary of the Department of Education.


Even though Dick DeVos hasn’t served as an elected official, he has done much work in the political arena of his home state. He organized a downtown action group in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1991 called Grand Action. It’s purpose was to build a multi-purpose sports arena and convention center downtown.


DeVos started the effort after he learned of plans to build a complex north of downtown, which he felt would pull people and money away from downtown and cause the urban area to fall into blight.


The group ended up with multi-buildings that completely revitalized the area including the DeVos Place Convention Center, the DeVos Performance Hall, the Van Andel Arena, and the Grand Rapids City Market. They even built the medical school at Michigan State University.


DeVos, a licensed pilot, also worked to improve aviation in western Michigan when he wooed AirTran Airways to run non-stop flights out of the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Continuing the flights faced a challenge when Southwest bought the air carrier, but DeVos saved the airport from being cut from Southwest routes by convincing them service to and from the area was worthwhile.


Both Dick and Betsy DeVos have made improving education a priority and have worked to expand charter schools in Michigan. While the issue became a heartfelt passion for his wife, DeVos also worked in the effort and even combined the charter school idea with aviation to establish the West Michigan Aviation Academy in 2010.


The school, which started in old office space at the airport, quickly grew from 80 students to 600. The school now has its own building and buses in students from seven counties. Tuition is free.


The DeVoses also contribute their own money toward the charter school and other educational causes. While the West Michigan Aviation Academy receives around $7,500 in a per student allowance from the state, the DeVoses have given more than $7 million to the fund the school as of 2014, according to records. Their gifts include a $3 million loan, given at no-interest, to expand and equip the school’s building.


The couple has donated approximately $139 million dollars to charitable causes over their lifetimes. Learn more:

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