A Love of Community and Country

A Love of Community and Country

Co-founding Amway in 1959—around the same time Fidel Castro was establishing a communist regime in Cuba and Nikita Khrushchev was threatening to bury the United States—Rich felt it was his duty to stand up for freedom, free enterprise and the American Way.

Rich was convinced that the positive atmosphere in his hometown, church and high school helped launch his career as a successful entrepreneur. He credited American freedom and free enterprise with affording him the opportunity to nurture a fledgling business into a global corporation. With that conviction and his belief in sharing his success, Rich DeVos, through personal and corporate giving, changed the skyline of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and played a leading role in promoting American freedoms at home and exporting free enterprise worldwide.

Photo Gallery: Community and Country

Patriots

Then Vice President Gerald R. Ford, Jay Van Andel, Rich and President Ronald Reagan at an event. Rich and Jay remained close friends with former President Gerald Ford throughout his life.

Revitalizing a City

At the dedication of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Rich and Jay led the effort to revitalize the downtown area by purchasing the former Pantlind Hotel. The hotel was renovated and a 29-story glass tower was added.

Michigan Connection

Former President Gerald R. Ford, shown here with Jay and Betty Van Andel and Helen and Rich, was a fixture at many Amway building dedications. Here President Ford helps celebrate the dedication of the Amway Grand Plaza Tower in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Gubernatorial Honor

Then Michigan Governor William Milliken presented Rich with a volunteer leadership award in 1974, for his efforts to improve communities in Michigan.

Catalyst for Change

Jay Van Andel, former President Gerald R. Ford and Rich at the dedication of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel on September 15, 1981, in the Pantlind Ballroom of the hotel. The opening of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum spurred a period of growth in the city that continues to this day.

Presidential Recognition

Rich with President Ronald and First Lady Nancy Reagan.

Planning the Future

Rich joined David Frey and Bob Daverman to review plans for a new arena in downtown Grand Rapids.

Presidential Circles

Rich at an event with then-Vice President George Bush and President Ronald Reagan.

Global Leaders

Rich and Helen with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former President Bill Clinton at a National Constitution Center event. The DeVoses supported the Center for years as a way to help each generation cherish their freedom and keep building a better America.

Close Conversation

Rich and former President George W. Bush in conversation at an event.

Longtime Friends

Rich and Helen and former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush photographed at an event.

The Medical Mile

Rich looked over the emerging "medical mile" skyline in Grand Rapids in 2007. In addition to the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, Rich and Helen supported other local medical facilities, to put the city on the map as a leading center for health care and research.

Grand Rapids Legacy

The skyline of Grand Rapids today bears the legacy of Rich's community leadership and giving. Beginning in the 1970s, Rich greatly contributed to major civic, arts, cultural, health, education and other projects that have forever changed the city.

Photo Credit: Marc Vander Maas

A Family Tradition

Rich and Helen were honored by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in 2016 for their longtime support of the organization’s mission of inspiring students to embrace and advance the principles and virtues that make America free. Andrea and Michael Abraham are continuing the family tradition, with Michael serving on the Institute’s Board of Trustees.

Rich came out of the gate fast as a champion of America. Asked to speak to a small group of accountants shortly after the start of Amway, he said he decided not to follow the crowd of critics but instead paint the true portrait of a positive America. His message resonated and propelled his little talk into “Selling America,” a speech he eventually delivered to thousands nationwide, and which was later recorded and won an award from the Freedoms Foundation.

Rich would go on to serve his country in many ways, including being appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the Presidential Commission on AIDS and serving as the Republican National Committee Finance Chairman. Rich also helped launch and served as founding chairman of the National Organization on Disability, supporting the organization for a number of years.

With a desire to preserve America’s heritage for young people, he and Helen were key contributors to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and the People’s President Gallery at Mount Vernon.

In Grand Rapids, Rich shared not only his treasure, but also his time and talent. He led the board that created Grand Valley State University and established its downtown campus. Rich was chairman of the board of Butterworth Hospital during the merger of Blodgett and Butterworth hospitals into a nationally recognized Spectrum Health. He lent his name and leadership to major fundraising projects, was a major patron of the Grand Rapids Symphony and the arts, and revitalized downtown Grand Rapids with buildings including the DeVos Place Convention Center, the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Services, the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, DeVos Performance Hall, and the Amway Grand Plaza and JW Marriott hotels.

Development in Grand Rapids has been remarkable considering that the city’s downtown had deteriorated in the 1970s when Rich was asked to chair the New Grand Rapids Committee. One of the committee’s first structures was a performance hall, which members wanted to name for Rich DeVos in appreciation for his leadership. He balked but was convinced when told how his name on the building would inspire other business leaders in the future to also give back to their community. The philosophy worked.

Decades later, at the dedication of DeVos Place, Rich spoke with pride about how people worked together to create a positive atmosphere and helped lead amazing progress in Grand Rapids. As he wrote in his 2008 book, Ten Powerful Phrases for Positive People: “We need people who will stand up and get the job done. Leaders have the power to be examples for the rest of us to follow.”

In typical Rich DeVos fashion, his need for a heart transplant did not slow him down but accelerated his heart for community. He became chairman of the United Network of Organ Sharing National Speakers Bureau and a leading advocate for organ donations. His life-saving transplant in 1997 was the basis for his book Hope from My Heart and speeches, both of which extolled the values of a positive lifestyle that enriches lives. Speaking to a community reception upon his release from the hospital, Rich related the dream he had shortly after the surgery in which he was handed a card with a single word: “Celebrate.”

And there’s much to celebrate in the life and legacy of Rich DeVos – free enterprise exported worldwide, millions of people with hope in their own potential, new and thriving charitable organizations, schools, hospitals, and civic and arts centers, and a family that will carry on a legacy of giving and enriching lives wherever they live.

Video: Pride in the American Way

Freedom and Hope

Rich shared his longstanding belief in the value and importance of America's free enterprise system. He explains that when he and his business partner, Jay Van Andel, became champions of free enterprise in the 1950s and '60s, they found their message was welcomed.

Rich was convinced that the positive atmosphere in his hometown, church and high school helped launch his career as a successful entrepreneur. He credited American freedom and free enterprise with affording him the opportunity to nurture a fledgling business into a global corporation. With that conviction and his belief in sharing his success, Rich DeVos, through personal and corporate giving, changed the skyline of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and played a leading role in promoting American freedoms at home and exporting free enterprise worldwide.

Photo Gallery: Community and Country

Patriots

Then Vice President Gerald R. Ford, Jay Van Andel, Rich and President Ronald Reagan at an event. Rich and Jay remained close friends with former President Gerald Ford throughout his life.

Revitalizing a City

At the dedication of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Rich and Jay led the effort to revitalize the downtown area by purchasing the former Pantlind Hotel. The hotel was renovated and a 29-story glass tower was added.

Michigan Connection

Former President Gerald R. Ford, shown here with Jay and Betty Van Andel and Helen and Rich, was a fixture at many Amway building dedications. Here President Ford helps celebrate the dedication of the Amway Grand Plaza Tower in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Gubernatorial Honor

Then Michigan Governor William Milliken presented Rich with a volunteer leadership award in 1974, for his efforts to improve communities in Michigan.

Catalyst for Change

Jay Van Andel, former President Gerald R. Ford and Rich at the dedication of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel on September 15, 1981, in the Pantlind Ballroom of the hotel. The opening of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum spurred a period of growth in the city that continues to this day.

Presidential Recognition

Rich with President Ronald and First Lady Nancy Reagan.

Planning the Future

Rich joined David Frey and Bob Daverman to review plans for a new arena in downtown Grand Rapids.

Presidential Circles

Rich at an event with then-Vice President George Bush and President Ronald Reagan.

Global Leaders

Rich and Helen with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former President Bill Clinton at a National Constitution Center event. The DeVoses supported the Center for years as a way to help each generation cherish their freedom and keep building a better America.

Close Conversation

Rich and former President George W. Bush in conversation at an event.

Longtime Friends

Rich and Helen and former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush photographed at an event.

The Medical Mile

Rich looked over the emerging "medical mile" skyline in Grand Rapids in 2007. In addition to the Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, Rich and Helen supported other local medical facilities, to put the city on the map as a leading center for health care and research.

Grand Rapids Legacy

The skyline of Grand Rapids today bears the legacy of Rich's community leadership and giving. Beginning in the 1970s, Rich greatly contributed to major civic, arts, cultural, health, education and other projects that have forever changed the city.

Photo Credit: Marc Vander Maas

A Family Tradition

Rich and Helen were honored by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in 2016 for their longtime support of the organization’s mission of inspiring students to embrace and advance the principles and virtues that make America free. Andrea and Michael Abraham are continuing the family tradition, with Michael serving on the Institute’s Board of Trustees.

Rich came out of the gate fast as a champion of America. Asked to speak to a small group of accountants shortly after the start of Amway, he said he decided not to follow the crowd of critics but instead paint the true portrait of a positive America. His message resonated and propelled his little talk into “Selling America,” a speech he eventually delivered to thousands nationwide, and which was later recorded and won an award from the Freedoms Foundation.

Rich would go on to serve his country in many ways, including being appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the Presidential Commission on AIDS and serving as the Republican National Committee Finance Chairman. Rich also helped launch and served as founding chairman of the National Organization on Disability, supporting the organization for a number of years.

With a desire to preserve America’s heritage for young people, he and Helen were key contributors to the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia and the People’s President Gallery at Mount Vernon.

In Grand Rapids, Rich shared not only his treasure, but also his time and talent. He led the board that created Grand Valley State University and established its downtown campus. Rich was chairman of the board of Butterworth Hospital during the merger of Blodgett and Butterworth hospitals into a nationally recognized Spectrum Health. He lent his name and leadership to major fundraising projects, was a major patron of the Grand Rapids Symphony and the arts, and revitalized downtown Grand Rapids with buildings including the DeVos Place Convention Center, the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Services, the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, DeVos Performance Hall, and the Amway Grand Plaza and JW Marriott hotels.

Development in Grand Rapids has been remarkable considering that the city’s downtown had deteriorated in the 1970s when Rich was asked to chair the New Grand Rapids Committee. One of the committee’s first structures was a performance hall, which members wanted to name for Rich DeVos in appreciation for his leadership. He balked but was convinced when told how his name on the building would inspire other business leaders in the future to also give back to their community. The philosophy worked.

Decades later, at the dedication of DeVos Place, Rich spoke with pride about how people worked together to create a positive atmosphere and helped lead amazing progress in Grand Rapids. As he wrote in his 2008 book, Ten Powerful Phrases for Positive People: “We need people who will stand up and get the job done. Leaders have the power to be examples for the rest of us to follow.”

In typical Rich DeVos fashion, his need for a heart transplant did not slow him down but accelerated his heart for community. He became chairman of the United Network of Organ Sharing National Speakers Bureau and a leading advocate for organ donations. His life-saving transplant in 1997 was the basis for his book Hope from My Heart and speeches, both of which extolled the values of a positive lifestyle that enriches lives. Speaking to a community reception upon his release from the hospital, Rich related the dream he had shortly after the surgery in which he was handed a card with a single word: “Celebrate.”

And there’s much to celebrate in the life and legacy of Rich DeVos – free enterprise exported worldwide, millions of people with hope in their own potential, new and thriving charitable organizations, schools, hospitals, and civic and arts centers, and a family that will carry on a legacy of giving and enriching lives wherever they live.

Video: Pride in the American Way

Freedom and Hope

Rich shared his longstanding belief in the value and importance of America's free enterprise system. He explains that when he and his business partner, Jay Van Andel, became champions of free enterprise in the 1950s and '60s, they found their message was welcomed.

  Up Next: Services »

Services

Information on events to celebrate the life of Rich DeVos.

Tributes to Rich DeVos

People from all around the world have shared memories, stories and messages about the impact Rich DeVos had on them.

Rich DeVos believed that true wealth came from spirituality and family. Thank you for choosing to donate to one of the organizations Rich supported in his lifetime.