Betsy DeVos

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Betsy DeVos
Betsy DeVos 2005 crop.jpg
Chair of the Michigan Republican Party
In office
Preceded by Gerald Hills
Succeeded by Saul Anuzis
In office
Preceded by Susy Avery
Succeeded by Gerald Hills
Personal details
Born Elisabeth Prince
(1958-01-08) January 8, 1958 (age 58)
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Dick DeVos
Children 4
Relatives Edgar Prince (father)
Erik Prince (brother)
Richard DeVos (father-in-law)
Alma mater Calvin College (BA)

Elisabeth "Betsy" DeVos (née Prince; born January 8, 1958) is an American billionaire,[1] businesswoman, philanthropist, and education activist from Michigan. DeVos is known for her advocacy of school choice and voucher programs. DeVos is married to Dick DeVos, an heir to the Amway fortune.

On November 23, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he would nominate DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education in his incoming administration.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Elisabeth DeVos was born Elisabeth Prince on January 8, 1958.[3][4] She grew up in Holland, Michigan, the daughter of Elsa (Zwiep) Prince (later, Broekhuizen) and Edgar Prince, an industrialist[5][6] of Dutch ancestry.[7] 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 town's population.[5] DeVos' brother, Erik Prince, founded Blackwater USA, a private security firm which had operations in Iraq.[5]

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, and was "involved with campus politics," according to Philanthropy magazine.[8]

Political activity[edit]

From 1982 onward, DeVos participated in the Michigan Republican Party, including serving as a local precinct delegate. She was a Republican National Committeewoman for Michigan between 1992 and 1997,[9] and served as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party from 1996 to 2000.[10][11] 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." Bill Ballenger, editor of the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics and a former Republican state senator, called DeVos "a good behind-the-scenes organizer and a good fund raiser" as well as "a true believer in core Republican issues that leave nobody in doubt on where she stands."[12]

DeVos resigned the position in 2000. She said in 2000, "It is clear I have never been a rubber stamp... I have been a fighter for the grassroots, and following is admittedly not my strong suit." [13] In 2003, DeVos ran again for party chairman and was elected to the post without opposition.[13]

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 workers were overpaid.[14]

DeVos raised more than $150,000 for the 2004 Bush re-election campaign,[15] and hosted a Republican fundraiser at her home in October 2008 that was headlined by President George W. Bush.[16] 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."[17]

On November 23, 2016, it was announced she was President-elect Trump's choice to be the next United States Secretary of Education.[18] The announcement was praised by conservative school choice advocates, with Jeb Bush calling her an "outstanding pick."[19] Randi Weingarten called her "the most ideological, anti-public education nominee" since the position became a cabinet position.[19]

Business career[edit]

DeVos is chairwoman 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.[8]

In 2011, DeVos and her husband, via the Windquest Group, invested in Energetx Composites, a wind energy company. They were drawn to it because it aligned with Windquest Group's clean energy focus. Windquest also invested in another Western Michigan firm, Cascade Engineering, to create a water filter used to help clean water efforts.[20][21][22]

DeVos and her husband were producers for a Broadway run of the stage play Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson, in 2012. Based on the life of the famous evangelist and featuring a book and lyrics written by Kathie Lee Gifford, the show ran for three weeks, closing in December 2012.

Non-profit work[edit]

Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation[edit]

The Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation was launched in 1989.[23] 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.[24]


Kennedy Center[edit]

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.[25][26] The couple donated $22.5 million in 2010 to continue the endeavor, which was given in the name the DeVos Institute of Arts Management.[25][26]

After the announcement of the DeVoses' gift to the Kennedy Center, DeVos explained that she had been persuaded by Kennedy Center official Michael Kaiser's observation that millions of dollars are invested "in the arts, and training artists," but not in "training the leaders who hire the artists and run the organizations." The DeVoses' gift was intended to remedy this oversight. "We want to help develop human capital and leverage that capital to the greatest extent possible," she said, describing Kaiser's "practice and approach" as "practical, realistic and creative."[26] The DeVoses' gift, part of which would be spent on arts groups in Michigan that had been hit hard by the recession, was the largest private donation in the Kennedy Center's history.[27]


In 2009, DeVos and her family founded ArtPrize, an international art competition held in Grand Rapids, Michigan.[28]


School Vouchers[edit]

DeVos is known as a "a fierce proponent of school vouchers" that would allow students to attend private schools with public funding.[29] According to The New York Times, it "is hard to find anyone more passionate about the idea of steering public dollars away from traditional public schools than Betsy DeVos."[19]

An article in The Washington Post stated that "her policy positions on school vouchers appear to be motivated by her Christian faith".[30]

DeVos served as chairwoman of the board of Alliance for School Choice[31] 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.[32][33] Over the years, DeVos and her husband have provided millions in funding for the organization.[34]

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.[35] She has chaired the boards of Choices for Children, and Great Lakes Education Project (GLEP).[36]

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.[37]

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. 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. [38]

Detroit charter school system[edit]

DeVoe was one of the architects of the Detroit charter school system. Douglas N. Harris, professor of Economics at Tulane University, wrote in a New York Times op-ed that DeVos was partly responsible for "what even charter advocates acknowledge is the biggest school reform disaster in the country." In the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Detroit had the lowest reading and mathematics scores "by far" over any city participating in the evaluation. She designed a system with no oversight, said Harris, and where schools that do poorly can still continue to enroll students.[39]

Grading system[edit]

DeVos and Joel Klein said in a May 2013 op-ed that residents of Maine "are now given information on school performance using easy-to-understand report cards with the same A, B, C, D and F designations used in student grades." This system, they argued, "truly motivates parents and the community to get involved by simply taking information that education officials have had for years and presenting it in a way that is more easily understood."[40]

Betsy and Dick DeVos Scholars for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Scholarship[edit]

The DeVoses have also established an annual scholarship, called the Betsy and Dick DeVos Scholars for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Scholarship, which is awarded to students earning a BBA or combined BBA/MBA at Northwood University.[41]

Foundation for Excellence in Education[edit]

DeVos is a member of the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd),[42], a think tank founded by Jeb Bush 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."[43]

Personal life[edit]

In the 1980s, Betsy 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.[5][44] Dick DeVos is the son of Richard DeVos, the founder of Amway.

In a press release at the time of their donation, in 2013, to the Kennedy Center for the creation of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management, it was reported that the couple have two daughters and two sons.[45][better source needed][46] One son, Rick, works for the Windquest Group (of which his mother is the chairperson) as a consultant on urban development.[47] They own residences in Grand Rapids and Ada in Michigan;[28] Windsor, a community in Vero Beach, Florida;[48][49] and a home on Lake Macatawa, in Holland, Michigan.[50] They also own a yacht.[28]

DeVos grew up in the Christian Reformed Church in North America.[51] She has been a member and elder of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids. Former Fuller Seminary president Richard Mouw, with whom DeVos served on a committee, claims she is influenced by neo-Calvinist theologian Abraham Kuyper.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Pulliam Bailey, Sarah (November 23, 2016). Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education pick, is a billionaire with deep ties to the Christian Reformed community. The Washington Post. Retrieved November 24, 2016.
  2. ^ Brown, Emma (November 23, 2016). "Trump picks billionaire Betsy DeVos, school voucher advocate, as education secretary - The Washington Post". The Washington Post. Washington Post. Retrieved 2 December 2016. 
  3. ^ Congressional Staff Directory, Fall 2006: 110th Congress, First Session, p. 903
  4. ^ Baker, Neal (November 24, 2016). "Who is Betsy DeVos? Donald Trump's billionaire choice for Education Secretary". The Sun. 
  5. ^ a b c d Scahill, Jeremy (2007). Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army. New York, NY: Perseus Books/Nation Books. pp. 2–8. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ Edgar D. Prince, NNI
  8. ^ a b Philanthropy Staff (2013). "Interview with Betsy DeVos, the Reformer" (print and online). Philanthropy. Washington, D.C.: Philanthropy Roundtable (Spring). Retrieved July 8, 2013. 
  9. ^ Gordon, Neil. "Profiles: Organizational Donor: Elizabeth DeVos"., The Center For Public Integrity. May 26, 2005
  10. ^ "Affirmative action initiative poses problems for politicians". The State News. East Lansing, Michigan. August 23, 2003. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ Andrews, Chris (April 24, 2004). "Leading the Charge". Lansing State Journal. p. 1A. 
  13. ^ a b Medema, Kate (2003-02-07). "DeVos starts fresh, familiar position". Chimes. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Calvin College. 97 (16). Archived from the original on 2004-05-07. Retrieved 9 July 2013. 
  14. ^ Dan Taylor (October 29, 2006). "Demonstrate Against DeVos Spouse at GOP Headquarters". Saginaw Area Democratic Club. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Michigan Gubernatorial Candidate Urges Bush to Meet With Big Three Automakers". The Associated Press. August 24, 2006. Retrieved May 23, 2011. [dead link]
  16. ^ Chris Christoff (October 15, 2008). "Bush attends fund-raiser in Grand Rapids". The Detroit Free Press. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  17. ^ "Standing for Change". Tyler, Texas: The Gathering. Retrieved July 9, 2013. 
  18. ^ Brown, Emma (November 23, 2016). "Trump picks billionaire Betsy DeVos, school voucher advocate, as education secretary". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 23, 2016. 
  19. ^ a b c Zernike, Kate (2016-11-23). "Betsy DeVos, Trump's Education Pick, Has Steered Money From Public Schools". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-11-28. 
  20. ^ Martinez, Shandra. "Dick and Betsy DeVos' Windquest Group provides financial lift to Holland start-up Energetx Composites". MLive Media Group. Retrieved July 9, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Windquest Group invests in Holland's Energetx Composites". Holland Sentinel. August 4, 2011. Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  22. ^ "Cascade Engineering, DeVos' Windquest Group revive water filter project for use in developing world". Windquest. January 15, 2010. Retrieved 21 June 2016. 
  23. ^ "About". Grand Rapids: Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. Retrieved July 5, 2013. 
  24. ^ "What We Do". Dick and Betsy DeVos Family. Retrieved July 5, 2013. 
  25. ^ 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. 
  26. ^ a b c Jacqueline Trescott (May 4, 2010). "Kennedy Center gets $22.5 million gift from DeVos family". The Washington Post. 
  27. ^ Zongker, Brett (May 4, 2010). "Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Gets $22.5M Gift from DeVos Family". Associated Press. Retrieved July 8, 2013. 
  28. ^ a b c 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. 
  29. ^ "Meet Betsy DeVos, the polarizing charter-school advocate Trump has tapped as education secretary". Business Insider. Retrieved 2016-11-28. 
  30. ^ Bailey, Sarah Pulliam (November 23, 2016). "Betsy DeVos, Trump's education pick, is a billionaire with deep ties to the Christian Reformed community". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 23, 2016. 
  31. ^ "About Us – Board of Directors". Washington, D.C.: Alliance for School Choice. Archived from the original on February 1, 2011. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  32. ^ "Local News Briefs". Lansing State Journal. April 5, 2008. p. B1.  This site is pay-per-view.
  33. ^ AP staff reporter (April 5, 2008). "DeVos PAC fined record $5.2 million by Ohio elections board". The Associated Press. Retrieved May 23, 2011. 
  34. ^ "School choice expanding as record fine languishes". The Associated Press. March 20, 2011. 
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ Stanton, Ryan J. "Group questions why right-wing Republican group is behind ads supporting Democrat Pam Byrnes." July 10, 2010. MLive Media Group.
  37. ^ "Our Mission". American Federation for Children. Retrieved July 10, 2013. 
  38. ^ "100 Most Influential Women: Betsy DeVos". Crain's Detroit. September 26, 2016. Retrieved September 26, 2016. 
  39. ^ Harris, Douglas N. (2016-11-25). "Betsy DeVos and the Wrong Way to Fix Schools". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-11-28. 
  40. ^ Klein, Joel; Devos, Betsy (May 25, 2013). "A–F grades promote transparency and parental involvement". Retrieved July 9, 2013. 
  41. ^ "Six Future Northwood University Students Receive the Betsy and Dick DeVos Scholarship for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship". Northwood University. April 22, 2015. Retrieved April 22, 2015. 
  42. ^ "Board of Directors". Foundation for Excellence in Education. Retrieved July 10, 2013. 
  43. ^ "Mission and History". Foundation for Excellence in Education. Retrieved July 10, 2013. 
  44. ^ Kathy Barks Hoffmann (November 12, 2008). "DeVos decides against Mich. gubernatorial run". The Holland Sentinel. The Associated Press. 
  45. ^ Kennedy Center Staff (May 3, 2010). "$22.5 Million Commitment for the DeVos Institute" (PDF). Kennedy Center. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-10-13. Retrieved July 8, 2013. [self-published source?]
  46. ^ Taylor, Kate (May 3, 2010). "$22.5. Million Gift For Kennedy Center". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-11-23. 
  47. ^ Wozniak, Curt. "How I Spent My Summer Vacation". Retrieved July 8, 2013. 
  48. ^ Harger, Jim (February 18, 2013). "Amway heirs Dick and Betsy DeVos included in feature about Windsor, their Florida winter retreat". Archived from the original on February 29, 2016. Retrieved July 8, 2013. 
  49. ^ Abkowitz, Alyssa (February 14, 2013). "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. 
  50. ^ "DeVos family moves into new Lake Mac mansion". Holland Sentinel. September 2, 2010. Retrieved July 10, 2013. 
  51. ^ Boston, Rob (September 2010). "Michigan Multi-Millionaire Betsy DeVos Is A Four-Star General In A Deceptive Behind-The-Scenes War On Public Schools And Church-State Separation". Church & State. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Susy Avery
Chair of the Michigan Republican Party
Succeeded by
Gerald Hills
Preceded by
Gerald Hills
Chair of the Michigan Republican Party
Succeeded by
Saul Anuzis