GVSU community mourns the death of Helen DeVos

GVL / Courtesy - GVNow 
The university recognized the support and leadership of Helen and Rich with the naming of the Richard M. DeVos Center.

GVL / Courtesy – GVNow The university recognized the support and leadership of Helen and Rich with the naming of the Richard M. DeVos Center.

Arpan Lobo

Longtime supporter of Grand Valley State University Helen DeVos passed away Wednesday, Oct. 18, at the age of 90.

The wife of Amway co-founder Richard DeVos, Helen DeVos was born in Grand Rapids in 1927. She married Richard DeVos in 1953, and together, the pair had a longstanding impact on GVSU.

The DeVos couple played a pivotal role in the expansion of GVSU’s Pew Campus in Grand Rapids in the 1990s. The Richard M. DeVos Center was named in recognition of the family’s efforts to secure both land and funding for the project, according to a GVNow article.

As well as the DeVos Center, the DeVos family also played a key role in fundraising for the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences in Grand Rapids, as well as making the lead gift toward the creation of the L. William Seidman Center on the Pew Campus.

The Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, also located in Grand Rapids, bears her name after her four children, Dick, Dan, Cheri and Doug, combined to donate $50 million in their mother’s name. The facility opened in 2011 and treats thousands of children per year.

Helen DeVos also served as a member of the advisory cabinet for the Grand Valley University Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides scholarships and grants for students, as well as other financial needs for the university to develop academic programs.

The university gave her an honorary Doctor of Arts degree in 2010, and she was honored by GVSU with the naming of the Helen DeVos Presidential Scholarship in 2011. In that same year, GVSU recognized her as grand steward of the university. In 2014, she was inducted into GVSU’s Hall of Fame and received an enrichment award from the university.

GVSU President Thomas Haas sent out a university-wide email Thursday, Oct. 19, to remember DeVos.

“Throughout her lifetime, Helen provided exceptional leadership and service to Grand Valley,” Haas said in the email. “She was passionate about education and a lifelong learner herself. Her leadership and support played a major role in the creation of the Richard M. DeVos Center, the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences and the L. William Seidman Building, as well as many other campaigns and projects.”

To pay tribute to DeVos, both carillon towers on the Allendale and Pew campuses will be lit with a blue “Laker Light.” The light is intended for students, faculty and staff to remember DeVos and her contributions to GVSU.

“My greatest wish upon receiving your generous award is that it will serve as an example and an inspiration for others to continue to contribute to our university and our community,” DeVos said after receiving an enrichment award in 2014. “And, may they both continue to succeed beyond our wildest imagination.”

Helen DeVos is survived by her husband, Richard, their four children, 16 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. A public visitation will be held Monday, Oct. 23, at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel Ambassador Ballroom in Grand Rapids from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. A private funeral procession will take place Tuesday, Oct. 24, with a public simulcast taking place in the JW Marriott International Ballroom. A public reception will be held in the Amway Grand Plaza from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. the same day.