GVSU remembers influential leader Rich DeVos

Courtesy / NBA.com

Courtesy / NBA.com

McKenna Peariso

The Grand Valley community is mourning the loss of one of the university’s most influential leaders, Richard M. Devos, who died at age 92 on Sept. 6. DeVos played a pivotal role in the university’s growth from its founding in the 1960s. He was a prominent figure in revitalizing Grand Rapids, and his work in improving higher education, health care, and the economic development of the city made GR what it is today. 

Grand Valley’s President Thomas J. Haas said DeVos was one of the university’s greatest leaders who was imperative to the development of the Grand Valley community, most noteworthy being the establishment of the downtown Grand Rapids campus. DeVos served as President of the Grand Valley University Foundation for 24 years. Before that, his work for the university dates back to the 1970s during his time on the Board of Control. DeVos’s work with Grand Valley dates back to the 1970s when he worked on the GVSU Board of Control.

“Rich gave so much of himself to Grand Valley,” Haas said. “His enthusiasm and vision were contagious, and drew the entire community together to help provide a world-class education to West Michigan citizens.”

DeVos and his late wife, Helen, were some of Grand Rapids and Grand Valley’s most generous benefactors. The DeVos family has donated an estimated $36 million to Grand Valley. Several of the university’s buildings are named for the DeVos’ including the Richard M. DeVos Center on the Grand Rapids campus, the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences as well as the Richard M. DeVos Living Center on the Allendale campus. 

“The university would not be what it is today without his and Helen’s leadership and generosity. His legacy lives on in the lives of the thousands of students he has touched,” Haas said. 

Rich and Helen Devos also gave the initial gift in 2011 for GVSU’s Seidman College of Business in honor of William Siedman, a friend of the Devos family and former Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. chief who died in 2009. 

The DeVos’ were also prominent figures in West Michigan through their philanthropy and business ventures. In 2011, the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital was constructed thanks to the donation from DeVos family. The 14-story hospital cost $286 million and is located on Spectrum Health’s Butterworth campus.  

DeVos was also co-founder of Amway Corp., a company that is now worth an estimated $5.1 billion. In 1992, DeVos retired from Amway due to health problems and his son Doug DeVos became president of the company in 2002. DeVos was also the owner of the Orlando Magic basketball team and remained the senior chairman of the NBA team until his death. 

The carillon towers on Grand Valley’s Allendale and Pew campuses will be lit with a blue “Laker Light” for the next two weeks in honor of Devos. The funeral ceremony will be live simulcast in the DeVos Performance Hall at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids that is open to the public. A public visitation will be held September 12 from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and 4-8 p.m. at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in the Ambassador Ballroom.

The legacy of Rich and Helen DeVos will live on in the building that bare their names and the lives they touched through their philanthropy. 

“Our hearts are with the DeVos family at this time,” Haas said.