Grand Valley State University Grand Valley State University

Richard & Helen DeVos

Richard M. DeVos 1926 – 2018
Helen J. DeVos 1927 – 2017

Rich and Helen DeVos forever changed West Michigan and Grand Valley State University through their generous philanthropy and vision. Their support for the university was unwavering since its founding in the 1960s. Learn more about them.

Portrait of Rich and Helen DeVos
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“We’re not setting up a building, we’re setting in motion another group of people who will make this country, this world, and this community a better place. That’s why Helen and I are so honored to be a part of it all, because that’s really what we are all about.”

– Rich DeVos

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“Our support isn’t simply for education, but for every advantage that education contributes to the quality of our life.”

– Helen DeVos


  • 1926 Richard M. DeVos born
  • 1927 Helen J. Van Wesep born

Their Story Begins

Richard M. and Helen J. (Van Wesep) DeVos were both born in Grand Rapids. They met in Grand Rapids, married, and eventually grew their family to include four children: Dick, Dan, Cheri, and Doug.

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  • Amway Corporation

Entreprenurial Success

In 1959, Rich and Helen partnered with Jay and Betty Van Andel to co-found Amway Corporation based in Ada, Michigan.

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  • The new Grand Rapids Committee is formed

Catalysts for Change

As community leaders, it was natural for Rich and Helen to be instrumental in the revitalization of downtown Grand Rapids in the 1970s.

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  • Rich joins GVSU Board of Control (1975-1982)

Champions for Education

Rich and Helen shared a passion for and belief in the importance of education. As a couple, Rich and Helen supported education from kindergarten through college in West Michigan and across the country.

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1981 – 2000
  • 1981 Downtown Campus Committee formed
  • 1988 L.V. Eberhard Center, first GVSU building in downtown Grand Rapids, opens
  • 1992 Rich chairs Grand Valley University Foundation (1992-2016)
  • 2000 Grand Valley’s Richard M. DeVos Center opens

Leading the Way

As a part of this expansion, Rich helped chart the course that would ultimately preserve the university for future generations, growing its endowment and significantly increasing community support.

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2002 – 2013
  • 2002 Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences dedication
  • 2013 L. William Seidman Center dedication

About Community

Rich and Helen would not let Grand Valley rest on its laurels. They were active in every campaign, encouraging others to join, and building the university into an even greater resource for the community.

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  • Daniel and Pamella DeVos Center for Interprofessional Health groundbreaking

Their Legacy Continues

At Grand Valley, we will always remember and celebrate the lives of Rich and Helen DeVos, who made such a difference for so many.

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“You can’t build a school like this with just money. It takes spirit. A spirit of love and caring. A spirit of respect for each other.”

– Rich DeVos

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“We support Grand Rapids because it’s our city, and we support Grand Valley State University because we do consider this our university.”

– Helen DeVos

Ten Powerful Phrases

Richard and Helen DeVos believed in the power of maintaining a positive attitude and affirming others. In his 2008 book, Ten Powerful Phrases for Positive People, Rich shared the value of using ten simple, yet profound phrases every day to motivate achievement, instill confidence, and encourage hope in the hearts of others. Rich called himself a “life enricher” and invited others to join him. Encourage people in your life by using the ten powerful phrases, and be a change for good at Grand Valley and in your family, community, and beyond.

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“Our vision looks forward to the impact we are going to have on the lives of the students who come here.”

– Rich DeVos


You are invited to experience the impact Rich and Helen have made at Grand Valley.

In celebration of Rich and Helen’s lives, and all that they have done for Grand Valley and West Michigan, a display was made in their honor.

Elements of this display are currently in two locations on our Robert C. Pew Grand Rapids Campus. Please visit to experience more of Rich and Helen’s story.

photo of a DeVos display
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