Betsy DeVos is, without a doubt, one of the most philanthropic icons to have come out of the Great Lakes State. When I reminisce on all that this Calvin College alum has achieved in her sixty years, I feel a sense of national pride swelling deep in my chest. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree from her alma mater, Mrs. Devos found herself taking the plunge into the Michigan political system, serving as a local precinct delegate for the Michigan Republican Party; a position that she has proudly held for over thirty years. During her tenure, she would also find time to take on the responsibilities as a Republican National Committeewoman for her home state between 1992 and 1997, as well as being the chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party during the years 1996 to 2000.
In 1989 Devos, along with her husband, created the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, a foundation self-described as being “centered in cultivating leadership, accelerating transformation and leveraging support in five areas”, those areas being community, education, arts, justice, and leadership. I would be remiss to exclude that the DeVos Foundation, to date, has raised $139M in charitable donations. This sizable sum, combined with the DeVos family’s already large lifetime giving of $1.2B, has landed the DeVos family name among the nation’s top givers. But Betsy’s drive for philanthropy did not stop there. In the 1990’s, DeVos served on the boards of two national 501(c)(3) charities; the Children First America, and the American Education Reform Council, which aimed to expand the availability of alternatives to public schooling. Then, in the years 2001-2002, Betsy DeVos spearheaded a successful political action committee to promote similar interests. So successful was this Great Lakes Education Project that Betsy and Dick then created the American Federation for Children Action Fund; an organization that hopes to address the problem of parents who feel trapped with the choices for public schools for their children. Read more about her philanthropy at MLive.
This is an issue that is very close to my own heart. Although I have no children of my own, as a child in the local school system I had no alternatives for where I wished to go to school. The kids that I interacted with took the definition of bullying way beyond the normal parameters of “acceptable”. I received threats to my personal safety and others associated with me, which developed an anxiety that I still struggle to come to terms with. But it does soothe my mind knowing that there’s people like Betsy DeVos out there, who are on the front lines fighting for change in a time where our education system needs it most. Read her interview with Philanthropy Table