West Michigan mourns the passing of entrepreneur and philanthropist Rich DeVos

Sep 6, 2018

Rich DeVos
Credit Grand Valley State University

Grand Rapid’s Richard M. DeVos, co-founder of Amway, NBA team owner and father-in-law of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has died at the age of 92.

Richard M. DeVos was an entrepreneur who, with boyhood friend Jay Van Andel, pioneered direct selling in 1949 when they invested $49 distributing Nutrilite vitamins. That would lead to the creation of Amway in 1959 selling an all-purpose cleaner. Nearly six decades later it is a multi-billion dollar international corporation.

Born March 4, 1926 in Grand Rapids, Rich DeVos grew up during the Great Depression, attended Grand Rapids Christian High School, Calvin College and served in the U.S. Air Corps. in World War II.

Rich and his wife Helen Mr. DeVos spurred City of Grand Rapids redevelopment projects financially supporting the construction of DeVos Place Convention Center, DeVos Performance Hall, the restoration of the Pantlind Hotel – now the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel – and the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital to name a few.

“He was a person that had a pretty big power plant.”

Arend Lubbers was a close friend and is President Emeritus Grand Valley State University.

“He used the energy to build whatever attracted him and he would always listen to people and he would listen to their case and then he would decide whether he was going to support it or not. And when he supported something he saw it through to completion and on to a successful future.”

A philanthropist at heart, the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation generously supported local causes and higher education.

In 2006, Grand Valley State University President Thomas Haas sought DeVos’ counsel for a university-wide comprehensive development campaign.

“He said, ‘Let’s do it.’ He gave me the confidence that, yes, we can do it. We can get it done. And with that we embarked on a $50 million for 50 Years of Service to celebrate that in 2010, and not only did we get the $50 million we almost doubled it.”

DeVos was owner of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, an inspirational speaker and author.

Patrick Center, WGVU News.