Biography: Rich DeVos
Born March 4, 1926, in Grand Rapids, Michigan; died peacefully at his Ada, Michigan, home on September 6, 2018.
Married February 1953, to the former Helen J. Van Wesep of Grand Rapids, who passed away October 18, 2017. They have four children (Dick DeVos, Dan DeVos, Cheri DeVos-Ehmann, and Doug DeVos), 16 grandchildren, and several great-grandchildren.
Graduated from Grand Rapids Christian High School
Attended Calvin College
U.S. Army Air Corps, 1944-1946
Rich DeVos co-founded Amway in 1959 and was company president until his retirement in 1993. He was also senior chairman of the Orlando Magic.
He was one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, author of five books, a much-in-demand inspirational and motivational speaker, a community and political leader, and, with his late wife Helen, a generous philanthropist.
In 1949, DeVos and Jay Van Andel, his friend since attending Grand Rapids Christian High School together in the late 1930s, started a highly successful business as independent distributors for Nutrilite. The California manufacturer of vitamins used a person-to-person direct-selling approach that DeVos and Van Andel adopted when starting Amway from their Ada, Michigan, homes in 1959. They refined a direct selling method of offering individuals the opportunity to build a business of their own that became the model for scores of direct selling companies and was the start of a major worldwide direct selling industry.
Amway is multibillion-dollar direct selling business based in Ada, Michigan, USA. Top-selling brands for Amway are Nutrilite™ vitamin, mineral and dietary supplements, Artistry™ skincare and color cosmetics, eSpring™ water treatment systems and XS™ energy drinks – all sold exclusively by Amway Business Owners. Amway is routinely ranked the number one direct selling business in the world based on global sales, according to the Direct Selling News Global 100. The company’s annual sales figure includes revenue from direct selling operations and other business holdings. For company news, visit globalnews.amway.com.
DeVos wrote five books: BELIEVE!,Compassionate Capitalism, Hope From My Heart, Ten Powerful Phrases for Positive People, and Simply Rich. Released in April 2014,Simply Rich is a memoir reflecting on his work, faith, family and the core values he held onto from his humble, Christian upbringing through his enormous success as co-founder of Amway.
His 1997 heart transplant at the age of 71 was the inspiration for Hope From My Heart, in which he imparts ten lessons for life on subjects including persistence, confidence, optimism, respect and faith. In 2002 he became chairman of the national speakers bureau of the United Network for Organ Sharing, promoting the need for increased organ donations.
DeVos summed up his philosophy of successful living in his first book, Believe!, published in 1975. His second book, Compassionate Capitalism, a treatise on how the wise use of financial resources can help others help themselves, was published in 1993.
He also was a well-known speaker, having appeared before hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. His recorded talk, “Selling America,” received many awards, including the Alexander Hamilton Award for Economic Education from the Freedoms Foundation.
DeVos volunteered his time and leadership to a number of causes, and he and his wife donated generously through the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation. Their motivation to give was based on their Christian faith and their responsibility as stewards of the financial resources God gave them.
In the 1970s, as chairman of the New Grand Rapids Committee, DeVos was instrumental in the revitalization of downtown Grand Rapids, including the DeVos Performance Hall. He and Jay Van Andel led the restoration of the Pantlind Hotel, which was purchased by Amway and is now the 682-room Amway Grand Plaza Hotel with an added 29-story tower. DeVos and Van Andel also spearheaded the Amway-owned JW Marriott on the banks of the Grand River.
DeVos and his wife used their influence and generosity to stimulate important projects for a healthier Grand Rapids – projects in higher education, health care, economic development, and the arts. The couple focused much of their giving on hundreds of Christian churches and ministries, with a special emphasis on Christian education. In addition, they were major contributors to various national causes that reflected their personal passion for freedom, fairness and free enterprise.
The DeVos family purchased the NBA Orlando Magic in 1991. RDV Sports, the parent company of the Magic and named for Rich DeVos, is an active partner in the Central Florida community. The Orlando Magic and the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation are generous contributors to the community.
He also shared his Christian faith in his books, speeches and as a guest on national TV and radio programs.
Recent Positions and Duties
Co-Founder and Former President, Amway
Senior Chairman, NBA Orlando Magic Basketball Team
Recent Civic Involvement
DeVos Sport Business Management Program, University of Central Florida, Honorary Co-Chair, National Policy Advisory Board, 2001-2015
Gerald R. Ford Foundation, Honorary Trustee, 1998-2018
Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Honorary Committee Member, 1993-2012
The King’s College, Board of Trustees, 2013-2018
National Constitution Center, Board of Trustees, 2001-2018
Northwood University, Florida Board of Governors, 1991-2015
Scripps Florida Council, Board of Trustees, 2009-2015
Spectrum Health, Board of Trustees, 1997-2012
United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), National Speakers Bureau, Chairman, 2001-2015
Past Civic Involvement
Butterworth Health Corporation, Chairman of the Board, 1989-1995
Christian Reformed Church, Board of Home Missions, Director, 1972-1977
Coral Ridge Ministries Media Inc., Board of Directors, 2005-2008
Council for National Policy, President, 1984-1993
Direct Selling Association, Chairman, 1975-1976
Direct Selling Education Foundation, Chairman, 1976-1977
Evangelism Explosion International Board of Directors, 1988-2010
Gospel Communications, Chairman, 1973-2008
Grand Rapids Economic Club, Charter Member, 1976
Grand Valley State University, Board of Control, Member, 1975-1982
Heart of West Michigan United Way, Director, 1976-1978
Junior Achievement of Grand Rapids, President, 1966
Knox Theological Seminary, Board of Directors – 1999-2009
National Association of Manufacturers, Director, 1974-1980
National Organization on Disability, Board Member and Founding Chairman, 1982
National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), Chairman of National Advisory Board
Presidential Commission on AIDS, Member, 1986
Republican National Committee, Finance Chairman, 1981-1982
World Fellowship for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, Fellow, 1990
Adam Smith Free Enterprise Award American Legislative Exchange Council, 1993
Alexander Hamilton Award for Economic Education, Freedoms Foundation, 1966
American Enterprise Executive Award, National Management Association, 1978
American Entrepreneur of the Year, University of Missouri, 1988
American Inspiration Award, Presidential Prayer Team, 2003
American Spirit Award, Republican House and Senate, 1998
Best Corporate Citizen Award, Orlando Magazine, 2002
Bravo! Award, Grand Rapids Symphony, 2001
Business Leader of the Year Award, Religious Heritage of America, 1972
Champion of Free Enterprise and Knights of Royal Way Awards, Direct Selling Assoc., 1974
Charles H. Hoeflich Lifetime Achievement Award, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2016
Circle of Honor Award, Direct Selling Education Foundation, 2001
Clare Boothe Luce Award, The Heritage Foundation, 2010
Distinguished Alumni Award, Calvin College, 1982
Distinguished Citizens Award, Gerald R. Ford Boy Scouts Council, 2003
Distinguished Salesman of the Year, Grand Rapids Sales & Marketing Association, 1975
Distinguished Service Award, Rotary Club of Grand Rapids, 1979
Edison Award, American Marketing Association, 1994
Excellence in Business Award, Davenport University, 2000
Excellence in Management Award, Industry Week, 1977
Executive of the Year Award, University of Arizona, 1991
Free Enterprise Award, Americanism Educational League, 1978
George Washington Honor Medal Award, Freedoms Foundation, 1980
Golden Plate Award, Academy of Achievement, 1974
Greater Grand Rapids Business Hall of Fame, Junior Achievement, 1989
H.J. Kuiper Founder’s Award, Kuyper College, 2006
Hall of Fame, National Consortium for Academics and Sports, 2005
Hall of Fame Award, Direct Selling Association, 1979
Hillman Award, Alliance for Health, 2012
Honorary Knight for Life, Round Table International, 1992
Honoris Causa Member of Omicron Delta Kappa, National Leadership Society, 1982
Horatio Alger Award, Horatio Alger Association, 1996
Humanitarian Award, House of Hope, 1999
Inspiration Award, International Association for Organ Donation, 2003
Lifetime Achievement Award, Direct Selling Association, 2012
Marketing Man of the Year, W. Michigan Chapter of the American Marketing Association, 1975
Michigan Week Volunteer Leadership Award, State of Michigan, 1974
Napoleon Hill Gold Medal Award for Free Enterprise Achievement, 1989
National Business Hall of Fame, Junior Achievement, 1989
Norman Vincent Peale Award for Positive Thinking, 2007
Others Award, Salvation Army, 2004
Outstanding American Award, National Future Farmers of America, 1990
Outstanding Business Leader Award, Northwood University, 1983
Patron Award, Michigan Foundation for the Arts, 1982
Sales & Marketing Executives of Washington, D.C. Award, Washington D.C. Chapter, 1984
Sales & Marketing Executives International Academy of Achievement, charter inductee, 1990
Socially Responsible Entrepreneur of the Year, Ernest & Young, 1992
Thomas Jefferson Freedom of Speech Award, Kiwanis International, 1966
Trustees’ Award for Distinguished Service, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2007
United Nations Environment Programme Achievement Award, on behalf of Amway, 1989
“We Can Make A Difference” Tribute for a Lifetime Award, West Michigan, 1999
William Booth Award, Salvation Army, 1990
William E. Simon Prize in Philanthropic Leadership, 2006
William F. Buckley Jr. Prize for Leadership in Supporting Liberty, National Review Institute, presented to the DeVos Family, 2014
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Corporate Citizenship Award, 2006
· Doctor of Humane Letters, The King’s College, 2013
· Doctor of Humanities, Michigan State University, 2009
· Doctor of Humane Letters, Palm Beach Atlantic University, 2005
· Doctor of Commercial Science, University of Central Florida, 2002
· Doctor of Business, Northern Michigan University, 1998
· Doctor of Laws, Davenport University, 1994
· Doctor of Laws, Regent University, 1992
· Doctor of Humane Letters, Grand Valley State University, 1992
· Doctor of Letters, Hope College, Holland, Michigan, 1982
· Doctor of Laws, Lubbock Christian College, 1981
· Doctor of Laws, Pepperdine University, 1980
· Doctor of Laws, Dickinson School of Law, 1980
· Doctor of Laws, Northwood University, Midland, Michigan, 1977
· Doctor of Laws, Grove City College, 1976
· Doctor of Laws, Oral Roberts University, 1976