Dick DeVos is inextricably linked in many people’s minds to politics. This is a product of his 2006 gubernatorial run in the state of Michigan. DeVos decided that he had seen enough of Jennifer Granholm’s disastrous tenure as governor. He decided to run for governor, largely funding his entire campaign himself. After a tough campaign, he lost by only a few percentage points, in one of the narrowest gubernatorial races in Michigan state history.
For this reason, DeVos has always been strongly associated since with politics. However, DeVos has never been a professional politician or even involved in politics to any significant extent beyond that single race. In fact, DeVos, before and since the race, has always been a businessman first and philanthropist second.
As the oldest son of Rich DeVos, the billionaire cofounder of Amway, DeVos had the opportunity to take over the helm at Amway, leading the company from a time of financial peril on to become one of the largest global providers of household products, beauty products and other retail items. DeVos oversaw the transition of the company from being a completely door-to-door sales-based enterprise to being one of the largest non-traditional online retail operations in the world. As a result, today, Amway is healthier than ever and one of the largest privately-held corporations in the United States.
But ask DeVos what his real accomplishments are, and he’s likely to tell you that it’s been his participation in the creation and management of various charter schools across Michigan. Long one of the most impassioned advocates of charter schools, DeVos has not been contented to merely sit and argue about the points that he believes to be right. He has put his money where his mouth is, developing is some of the most innovative charter schools in the country and changing the lives of thousands of disadvantaged youths.
One of the biggest success stories of DeVos’ philanthropy has been Detroit Charter School Company New Urban Learning School. The school is one of the largest charter schools of its kind in the city of Detroit. In a city with a public school system that is failing in shocking form, Detroit Charter School Company New Urban Learning School has provided thousands of some of the country’s most disadvantaged young people with the opportunity of a real, first-rate education.
While their peers perform dismally on almost all elements of standardized tests, with more than 95 percent of all Detroit public school students failing math, reading and science categories, those students who are lucky enough to be enrolled in Detroit Charter School Company New Urban Learning School are nearly 100 percent proficient in all three of those categories, a miraculous achievement in such a dismally performing city.