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In Memoriam: Richard DeVos (1926–2018)

This afternoon we received the news that Richard DeVos, the Amway cofounder and longtime ISI friend and supporter, has died. All of us at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute mourn his passing.

 

Richard DeVos, who died Thursday at age ninety-two, always remembered making his first sale.

He was a young boy living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. With his family “barely scraping by” during the Great Depression, his grandfather sold produce door-to-door in his sputtering Model T truck. Young Rich was riding along when his grandfather let him try to make a sale. “I earned just a few pennies,” Rich remembered, “but that memorable achievement was a definitive moment in who I became as a man.”

Rich went on to cofound Amway and, together with his partner, Jay Van Andel, grow it into the world’s largest direct-selling business.

But Rich’s formative experiences did more than teach him about business. His family and community instilled in him values he carried throughout his life: perseverance, faith, family, and freedom.

Those values could be seen in his and wife Helen’s remarkable philanthropy. For decades they generously supported music, arts, health, education, and other causes. Rich and Helen also stood as passionate advocates for liberty. Rich’s inspired speech on the American dream, “Selling America,” won the Alexander Hamilton Award for Economic Education from the Freedoms Foundation. On receiving ISI’s Henry Salvatori Prize in 1996, he gave a powerful lecture on “compassionate capitalism.”

In a sense, the DeVos family and ISI got their start together: Rich and Helen married in 1953, the year ISI was founded. So it was fitting that these devoted advocates of liberty supported ISI for decades, helping educate countless principled leaders through ISI’s Richard and Helen DeVos Freedom Center. The DeVoses also gave a generous gift that made possible the purchase and renovation of ISI’s headquarters in the 1990s.

But Rich DeVos offered more than just financial support to ISI. For decades he served as a close friend and trusted adviser to the Institute. He spent a decade on ISI’s board of trustees, providing wise counsel throughout. Michael Abraham, the husband of Rich and Helen’s granddaughter Andrea, has followed in Rich’s footsteps, joining ISI’s board in 2016.

Reflecting on Rich DeVos’s legacy, ISI president Charlie Copeland says: “In Rich’s remarkable life we see a classic American success story. Coming from humble beginnings, he built one of the world’s most successful and recognizable companies.

“But there is so much more we can learn from Rich’s example. As a speaker, an author, and a philanthropist, he stood as one of America’s most dedicated defenders of family, faith, and freedom.

“Rich gave generously to ISI with his time, talent, and treasure. For years, the Richard and Helen DeVos Freedom Center has been the engine that drives our work with outstanding college students. And I will never forget the insights and advice he offered me when we sat together at ISI’s Dinner for Western Civilization in 2016.

“None of us at ISI will ever forget Rich DeVos. We send our prayers to the DeVos family and join them in mourning his loss.”

Rich DeVos (right) with former ISI president Ken Cribb

 

 

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