The Hope campus provides a lasting reflection of the philanthropy of Amway co-founder Richard DeVos, who died on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, at age 92, and his wife, Helen, who (as reported in the Winter
2017 issue) died on Oct. 18, 2017, at age 90.
The Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation contributed a leadership gift on behalf of the college’s fieldhouse, and the college named the building for Richard and Helen in honor of their impact on the quality of life in western Michigan, in the Holland community and at Hope. The couple presented the game ball for the men’s basketball game during the dedication of the building on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2005. The foundation also provided one
of the lead gifts for the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts, which opened in August 2015, and the building’s 800-seat Concert Hall is dedicated in memory of Helen’s parents, George and Wilma Van Wesep.
Survivors include the couple’s children, Suzanne Cheri DeVos ’83, Daniel (Pamella) DeVos, Richard (Betsy) DeVos and Doug (Maria) DeVos; 16 grandchildren; and five greatgrandchildren.
Holland Sentinel Obituary
, the West Michigan native who cofounded Amway and was one of the area’s biggest philanthropists, has died.
Spokesperson Nick Wasmiller says Rich DeVos’ death was caused by complications from an infection, but that the icon was surrounded by family as he died peacefully at his home in Ada on Thursday, Sept. 6. He was 92 years old.
DeVos’ wife of nearly 65 years, Helen DeVos, died in October 2017. They had four children, 16 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
“ The DeVos legacy in Grand Rapids is one of concern and compassion for the people who live in this city, as well as a love of the community that has generated an enormous spillover in economic growth and development,” former Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell said.
Born March 4, 1926, DeVos attended Grand Rapids Christian High School, walking or catching a street car to get to class. When he saw Jay Van Andel had a car, he offered to pay $.25 per week for a ride to school. It launched a lifelong friendship.
DeVos attended Calvin College before serving in the U. S. Army Air Corps during World War II. After the war, he married Helen Van Wesep in 1953.
DeVos leaves behind four children, Dick, Dan, Cheri and Doug, and many grandchildren. His son Dick — who ran for governor in 2006 — is married to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
After the war, DeVos and Van Andel reunited, owning and operating Wolverine Air Service, teaching others how to fly. They then expanded their interests, opening the first drive-thru restaurant in the area. They moved on to other businesses, forming the JaRi Corp. in 1949 to distribute Nutrilite.
Eventually, they founded Amway — short for “American Way” — in 1959. Their first product was called L. O. C., or liquid organic cleaner.
“ The first founding principle of this business is our door is open to anyone — the uneducated, the impoverished, the people who don’t speak well. Our doors are open,” DeVos once said.
More than 55 years later, Amway is one of the world’s largest direct-selling businesses, operating in more than 100 countries.
The business is still run by members of the DeVos and Van Andel families.
The other family business was basketball. DeVos was also the owner of the Orlando Magic, which he bought in 1991. The team’s home arena is now named the Amway Center.
The DeVoses, the Van Andels and Amway focused on developing the city they called home. In 1978, they bought the Pantlind hotel on Monroe Avenue in Grand Rapids — then an abandoned and boarded-up eyesore — and transformed it into the high- class Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
“ Rich DeVos with his partner Jay Van Andel took that building and created a world-class hotel in downtown Grand Rapids,” former Heartwell said. “And from that we began to see that spillover of investment into downtown — our convention facilities, our fabulous convention facilities, and they made sense for the hotels that were downtown, they helped fill the hotel rooms, many of which were owned by the Van Andel family, but at the same time they spawned a whole new industry, a tourism industry for us in downtown Grand Rapids.”
Years later, DeVos again partnered with Van Andel, despite the latter’s failing health, for one final project — the JW Marriott in downtown Grand Rapids.
“ Our family had been talking about the need to build another hotel, so I went over to Jay and said ‘Well, Jay, do you think you got one more big building in you? Would you like to be participating in one more big project?’ And he said,’ Absolutely, don’t leave me out,’” DeVos remembered in 2005. “ Even though his health wasn’t good, he wanted to be part of it.”
Van Andel, who battled Parkinson’s disease for many years, died in December 2004.
“ There is a bond that existed between us that very few people have in life,” DeVos said as his funeral.
The Grand Rapids J.W. Marriott — the first in the Midwest — opened in 2007.
The DeVos family’s contributions led to the creation of the DeVos Performance Hall — the city’s first major concert hall — in 1980 and the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in 1993 as part of Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital.
Eighteen years later, the hospital expanded into a new $286 million, 14-floor, state-of-the-art facility that is a source of pride for the family.
“ I have told all my children, ‘ This is our town and you are responsible for it. You know we all have a place we have to honor and take care of; this is your place to take care of.’ That’s the way I feel about this town,” he said.
The DeVos family also contributed to the Holland area.
The Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation contributed a leadership gift for the construction of Hope Colleges’ fieldhouse, which bears their names. The fieldhouse serves as home court for the college’s men’s and women’s basketball teams and volleyball team, and also houses the department of kinesiology. The couple presented the game ball for the men’s basketball game during the dedication of the building on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2005.
The foundation also provided one of the lead gifts for the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts, which opened in August 2015, and the building’s 800- seat Concert Hall is dedicated in memory of Helen’s parents, George and Wilma Van Wesep.
“ In many ways, Hope College is flourishing today because of the generosity and vision of Rich DeVos,” Hope president Dennis Voskuil said in a statement. “ Both Rich and his wife, Helen, were faithful friends of the Hope community and fostered recognized excellence in the arts and athletics as active supporters of the college’s mission. We can hardly imagine Hope without the Richard and Helen DeVos Fieldhouse or the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts and its Concert Hall. In gratitude, we celebrate Rich’s legacy here on Hope’s campus and in West Michigan, and we extend our deepest condolences to the DeVos family.”
A renowned motivational speaker, DeVos appeared before many groups expounding the virtues of free enterprise and a can-do attitude.
“ It isn’t with grandiose speeches. It is in simple words of encouragement, a pat on the back, a hand on the shoulder, a little ‘you can do it,’ and a life can be changed, and our country saved,” he said in 1996.
He wrote five books, including “ Simply Rich,” “ Compassionate Capitalism,” “ Hope From My Heart,” and his first work, “Believe,” which was turned into an autobiographical movie by a West Michigan company.