Betsy DeVos

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Betsy DeVos
Betsy Devos.jpg
Devos with supporter in 2006
Born Elisabeth Prince
(1958-01-08) January 8, 1958 (age 58)[1]
Residence Ada, Michigan[2]
Nationality American
Education Holland Christian Schools
Alma mater Calvin College bachelor's degree
Political party Republican
Board member of Alliance for School Choice
Spouse(s) Dick DeVos
Children Four
Relatives Erik Prince (brother)

Elisabeth "Betsy" DeVos (née Prince) is an American politician, businesswoman, philanthropist, and education activist from the state of Michigan. She has taken a leading role in a number of social, cultural, and political campaigns and organizations; sat on many boards; and served for several years as chairman of the Michigan Republican Party. She is chairman of the Windquest Group, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, and the American Federation for Children, and is a member of the board of the DeVos Institute for Arts Management at the Kennedy Center.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

DeVos grew up in Holland, Michigan, the daughter of Elsa Zwiep Prince (later, Broekhuizen) and Edgar Prince, a self-made industrialist.[4][5] Edgar was the founder of Prince Corporation, an automobile parts supplier based in Holland, Michigan, which at one time employed almost one-quarter of the population of the town.[4] DeVos' mother has been a philanthropist and has been active in conservative social causes, including support of an anti-gay marriage ballot proposal in California.[6] DeVos' brother, Erik Prince, founded Blackwater USA, a private security firm which had operations in Iraq.[4]

DeVos was educated at the Holland Christian High School. She graduated from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she earned a bachelor's degree in business administration and political science. At Calvin College, DeVos was "involved with campus politics," according to Philanthropy Magazine.[3]

Business career[edit]

DeVos is chairman of the Windquest Group, a privately held operating group that invests in technology, manufacturing, and clean energy. DeVos and her husband founded it in 1989.[3]

Political activity[edit]

From 1982 onward, DeVos played many roles in the Michigan Republican Party, serving in such modest positions as that of a local precinct delegate. She was a Republican National Committeewoman for Michigan between 1992 and 1997,[7] and served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party from 1996 to 2000.[8][9] In 2004, the Lansing State Journal described DeVos as "a political pit bull for most of [Gov. Jennifer] Granholm's 16 months in office, and said that if DeVos wasn't Granholm's "worst nightmare," she was "certainly her most persistent."[10]

DeVos resigned the position in 2000 because the party was "fragmented" and because then Gov. John Engler opposed her school-voucher proposal. In 2003, DeVos chose to run again for party chairman and was elected to the post without opposition.[11]

A press release issued by DeVos in April 2004 blamed Michigan's economic woes on "high wages and a tax and regulatory structure that makes this state uncompetitive" leading to a backlash from members of the Michigan public who disagreed with DeVos that Michigan workers were overpaid.[12]

DeVos raised more than $150,000 for the 2004 Bush reelection campaign,[13] and hosted a Republican fundraiser at her home in October 2008 that was headlined by President George W. Bush.[14] During the Bush Administration she spent two years as the Finance Chairman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee and worked closely with the Administration on "various projects."[15]


Family Foundation[edit]

The Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation was launched in 1989.[16] The foundation's giving, according to its website, is motivated by faith, and "is centered in cultivating leadership, accelerating transformation and leveraging support in five areas," namely education, community, arts, justice, and leadership.[17]


DeVos was appointed by President George W. Bush to the board of directors of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2004, and served until 2010. While she was on the board, she and her husband funded a center to teach arts managers and boards of directors how to fundraise and manage their cultural institutions.[18][19] The couple donated $22.5 million in 2010 to continue the endeavor, which was given in the name the DeVos Institute of Arts Management.[18][19] The DeVoses' gift was the largest private donation in the Kennedy Center's history.[20]

In 2009, DeVos and her family founded ArtPrize, an international art competition held in Grand Rapids, Michigan.[21]

School choice[edit]

DeVos served as chairwoman of the board of Alliance for School Choice[22] She heads the All Children Matter PAC which she and her husband founded in 2003 to promote school vouchers, tax credits to businesses that give private school scholarships, and candidates who support these causes.[23][24] Over the years, DeVos and her husband have provided millions in funding for the organization.[25]

Her other activities on behalf of public-school reform have included membership on the boards of directors of the Advocates for School Choice, the American Education Reform Council, and the Education Freedom Fund.[26] She has chaired the boards of Choices for Children, and Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP).[27] She has described GLEP as being "focused on supporting candidates who share a commitment to the issue of meaningful education reform," and CFC as being an "education reform watchdog organization" that is "focused on raising public awareness as to the merits of education reform."[15]

She has also been on the boards of the Acton Institute, the American Council of Young Political Leaders, Compass Arts Board, and was finance co-chair of the American Dream PAC.[28] According to a Florida publication, DeVos "excels in her efforts as an ambassador for governors with interest in this subject, like New Jersey's Chris Christie."[21]

During the 1990s, she served on the boards of Children First America and the American Education Reform Council, which sought to expand school choice through vouchers and tax credits. She and her husband worked for the successful passage of Michigan's first charter-school bill in 1993, and for the unsuccessful effort in 2000 to amend Michigan's constitution to allow tax-credit scholarships or vouchers. She described this loss as "really tragic, because Michigan has so many families, particularly in our state's large, urban school districts, who are desperate for better educational options, and because our state constitution has some of the most restrictive language limiting educational choice in the country." In response to that defeat DeVos started a PAC, the Great Lakes Education Project, which championed charter schools. DeVos's husband and John Walton then founded All Children Matter, a political organization, which she chaired. Sometime after that she and other members of that group formed the American Federation for Children, a 501(c)(4). "Now that our efforts are better organized," she said, "it's been working really, really well."[3]

Foundation for Excellence in Education[edit]

DeVos is a member of the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (FEE),[29] whose stated goal is to "build an American education system that equips every child to achieve his or her God-given potential." Its vision is: "An education system that maximizes every student's potential for learning and prepares all students for success in the 21st century." And its "guiding principles" are that "All children can learn," that "All children should learn at least a year's worth of knowledge in a year's time", and that "All children will achieve when education is organized around the singular goal of student success."[30]

American Federation for Children[edit]

DeVos is Chair of the American Federation for Children (AFC), which describes itself as "a leading national advocacy organization promoting school choice, with a specific focus on advocating for school vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs." It is affiliated with the Alliance for School Choice.[31] Launched in 2010, it operates regional offices across the country. According to one source, it "has racked up a series of successes by spending almost no money nationally, concentrating instead on the states, where media campaigns are cheaper and more manageable, and disclosure requirements are often far less stringent....For example, the federation has provided grants to the School Choice Indiana Network, Boast Alliance Maryland, and Partners for Educational Freedom in North Carolina." Among its successes are a Georgia law "reinstating a commission that authorized charter schools," a Florida committee whose attacks on Democratic attorney general candidate Dan Gelber resulted in his election loss, legislation in Virginia "calling for scholarship tax credits," and legislation in Wisconsin that created "a voucher program for children with special needs."

Affiliated with the AFC, and also headed by DeVos, is the American Federation for Children Action Fund, which has accepted donations from Walmart heirs Alice Walton and Jim Walton, among many others.[32]

Personal life[edit]

In the 1980s, Betsey married Dick DeVos, an heir to the Amway fortune, who ran its parent company Alticor, from 1993 to 2002 and was the 2006 Republican nominee for Governor of Michigan.[4][33] They have two daughters, a daughter-in-law, and two sons.[34] Their son Rick works for the Windquest Group as a consultant on urban development.[35] They own residences in Grand Rapids and Ada in Michigan;[21] Windsor, a community in Vero Beach, Florida;[36][37] and off the coast of Lake Macatawa.[38] They also own a yacht.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Congressional Staff Directory, Fall 2006: 110th Congress, First Session, p. 903
  2. ^ Kathy Barks Hoffman (July 10, 2006). "Faltering Economy Obstacle for Granholm". The Associated Press. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Interview with Betsy DeVos, the Reformer". Philanthropy Roundtable. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d Jeremy Scahill (2007). Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Nation Books. pp. 2–8. 
  5. ^ Shandra Martinez (September 8, 2010). "Amway heir Dick and Betsy DeVos move into sprawling 22,000-square-foot mansion". The Grand Rapids Press ( Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  6. ^ Kathleen Gray, Zachary Gorchow, M.L. Elrick, Dawson Bell and Todd Spangler (October 22, 2008). "Electoral College map could give McCain the blues". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  7. ^ Gordon, Neil. "Profiles: Organizational Donor: Elizabeth DeVos"., The Center For Public Integrity. May 26, 2005
  8. ^ "Affirmative action initiative poses problems for politicians". The State News (East Lansing, Michigan). August 23, 2003. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  9. ^ Steve Benen (September 2000). "Voters In California And Michigan Face Referenda On Voucher Aid To Religious Schools". Church & State. Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  10. ^ Andrews, Chris (April 24, 2004). "Leading the Charge". Lansing State Journal. p. 1A. 
  11. ^ Medema, Kate. "DeVos starts fresh, familiar position". Chimes. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Calvin College. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  12. ^ Dan Taylor (October 29, 2006). "Demonstrate Against DeVos Spouse at GOP Headquarters". Saginaw Area Democratic Club. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Michigan Gubernatorial Candidate Urges Bush to Meet With Big Three Automakers". The Associated Press. August 24, 2006. Retrieved May 23, 2011. [dead link]
  14. ^ Chris Christoff (October 15, 2008). "Bush attends fund-raiser in Grand Rapids". The Detroit Free Press. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  15. ^ a b "Standing for Change". Tyler, Texas: The Gathering. Retrieved July 9, 2013. 
  16. ^ "About". Grand Rapids: Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. Retrieved July 5, 2013. 
  17. ^ "What We Do". Dick and Betsy DeVos Family. Retrieved July 5, 2013. 
  18. ^ a b Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk (May 3, 2010). "Dick and Betsy DeVos donate $22.5 million to Kennedy Center training program in Washington". The Grand Rapids Press (MLive Media Group). Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  19. ^ a b Jacqueline Trescott (May 4, 2010). "Kennedy Center gets $22.5 million gift from DeVos family". The Washington Post. 
  20. ^ Zongker, Brett. "Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Gets $22.5M Gift from DeVos Family". Retrieved July 8, 2013. 
  21. ^ a b c d Marx, Linda. "Betsy DeVos: 'I did not want a place in Florida, but we fell in love with Windsor'". Vero Beach 32963. Retrieved July 9, 2013. 
  22. ^ "About Us - Board of Directors". Washington, D.C.: Alliance for School Choice. Archived from the original on February 1, 2011. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Local News Briefs". Lansing State Journal. April 5, 2008. p. B1.  This site is pay-per-view.
  24. ^ AP staff reporter (April 5, 2008). "DeVos PAC fined record $5.2 million by Ohio elections board". The Associated Press. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  25. ^ "School choice expanding as record fine languishes". The Associated Press. March 20, 2011. 
  26. ^ Dawsey, Darrell. "Observers say latest affirmative action ruling may be overturned, but battle goes on in Michigan." July 5, 2011. Grand Rapids: MLive Media Group.
  27. ^ Stanton, Ryan J. "Group questions why right-wing Republican group is behind ads supporting Democrat Pam Byrnes." July 10, 2010. MLive Media Group.
  28. ^ Tabachnik, Rachel. "Voucher Advocate Betsy DeVos, Right-Wing Think Tanks Behind Koch-Style Attack on PA Public Schools (Section 2)". K12 News Network. April 26, 2011.
  29. ^ ""Board of Directors". Foundation for Excellence in Education. Retrieved July 10, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Mission and History". Foundation for Excellence in Education. Retrieved July 10, 2013. 
  31. ^ "Our Mission". American Federation for Children. Retrieved July 10, 2013. 
  32. ^ Bennett, Laurie. "School Choice Group Turns Its Back on Washington, Focuses on States". First Street Research Group. Archived from the original on October 23, 2013. Retrieved July 8, 2013. 
  33. ^ Kathy Barks Hoffmann (November 12, 2008). "DeVos decides against Mich. gubernatorial run". The Holland Sentinel. The Associated Press. 
  34. ^ "$22.5 Million Commitment for the DeVos Institute" (PDF). Kennedy Center. Retrieved July 8, 2013. 
  35. ^ Wozniak, Curt. "How I Spent My Summer Vacation". Retrieved July 8, 2013. 
  36. ^ Harger, Jim. "Amway heirs Dick and Betsy DeVos included in feature about Windsor, their Florida winter retreat". Retrieved July 8, 2013.
  37. ^ Alyssa Abkowitz, A Resort With Less Glitz and No Kitsch: A development in Florida's Vero Beach emphasizes minimalist design to create an understated vibe, The Wall Street Journal, February 14, 2013
  38. ^ Holland Sentinel. "DeVos family moves into new Lake Mac mansion". Retrieved July 10, 2013.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Susy Heintz (Avery)
Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party
Succeeded by
Gerald Hills
Preceded by
Gerald Hills
Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party
Succeeded by
Saul Anuzis