Daniel and Pamella DeVos

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Daniel and Pamella stand in front of the blue and white Chihuly glass sculpture

photo by Amanda Pitts

Mantella, Branch and the DeVoses standing next to a hospital bed with a manikin in it.

photo by Kendra Stanley-Mills

What is your earliest memory of being involved with Grand Valley?

Dan: My earliest memories stretch back to when it was Grand Valley State College. Mom and Dad served Grand Valley in many ways over the years, including on several boards. Pamella and I were able to see firsthand the impact of their partnership and the special relationships they formed with visionary leaders like Arend (Don) Lubbers, Bill Seidman, Arnold Ott and others, and understand their collective belief in the institution and devotion to ingraining the idea of giving into its culture.

Mom and Dad always had a positive outlook and saw opportunities to give wherever they looked. In this case, they saw the potential of the institution to have an impact on individual students who were on their own road to achieving their full potential, as well as the positive effect on the broader community. The growth of the school and its impact on health care, business and beyond has been amazing to see and the West Michigan region is better for it. 

Pamella and I were lucky to come alongside Mom and Dad in supporting Grand Valley more than 30 years ago. We, too, noted how Grand Valley was a driver for individual success and the betterment of the community as a whole. That early involvement has spurred a lifetime of support for us, and we couldn’t be happier to be partners with many in the Grand Valley community.

What community issues do you lose sleep over?

Pamella: For me, there are a few areas: the mental health and well-being of those in our community, ensuring young people feel supported and encouraged on the journey to reaching their full potential, and enhancing opportunity for all to access and engage in the arts in a meaningful way to provide deep, long-lasting benefit. Each is critically important. 

Dan: I agree. We are encouraged by the great work so many are engaged in within our community, while understanding that more work is ahead, especially in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion. Each of us can play a bigger role in the promotion of these values, and I’m confident in our community’s ongoing efforts to create environments where all feel welcomed. When there is hard work to do, the people of West Michigan unite to roll up their sleeves and get to it. It’s part of what makes this community unique and I’m eager to see the special things we accomplish together in the future. 

What do you recommend for 20- and 30-year-olds who want to get engaged with our community?

Dan: I would thank them for taking the first step by placing value on being involved in the community. This region has had its share of successes because people were willing to engage and invest in themselves to make a difference. I would follow by encouraging each person to try stuff and see what creates a spark — within themselves and others. People often seek to find the perfect opportunity or scenario to engage. That limits effectiveness. Instead, I’d suggest making the best judgment possible and taking the first step forward without any expectations beyond bettering the community. Don’t wait. The experiences and connections from that point on will shape your outlook and allow you to make an even bigger impact for your community in the future.

Pamella: Getting started is really half the battle. Finding something that sparks a passion inside you is obviously important. Community work is rewarding, but everything has its challenges. When you’re passionate about what you’re doing in the community, obstacles become less significant. I think the education you receive from a university like GVSU frames how you see the world — it is a launching pad. That starting point combined with inner passion can result in great things. 

What advice do you have for passing on philanthropic values to the younger generation?

Dan: We always try to lead by example, much as Mom and Dad did. Whether as an encourager, a partner or as a leader, Pamella and I seek to engage in meaningful ways that lead to a better tomorrow for all. As a parent, I know it can seem like kids aren’t necessarily paying attention, but they are. They see and hear you, and it’s funny how often you see yourself reflected in their behaviors. All parents have experienced it. 

As we’ve engaged in philanthropy work, we’ve often found that listening and understanding someone else’s perspective and experiences is the most valuable thing you can do at the start — so that’s something I’d hope to pass on to our kids. From there, you can work together with a shared understanding, a commitment that we’re all in this together, and a desire to rely on and trust one another to make the world a little better.

What inspired you to support the health professions at Grand Valley?

Pamella: Partnership has been a part of our community’s DNA for as long as I can remember. I recall when Spectrum Health was formed through the merger of Butterworth and Blodgett hospitals and how the community came together to make it happen. It was a great example of the power of partnership.

You can accomplish so much more working together, and this idea is really what sparked our family’s interest in coming alongside Grand Valley in supporting the Center for Interprofessional Health. Each health care practitioner brings unique value and expertise to the table, but building and strengthening a person’s ability to effectively work together brings a multiplier effect to the positive benefit for patients and others. The fundamental concept of this facility resonated with us because partnership is core to everything we try to do, and we’re encouraged by others placing value here to strengthen their ability to work together. 

Why did you help to ensure that world-class artwork would be displayed in the building?

Pamella: We’re dedicated to promoting strong and vibrant communities, and I believe a passionate commitment to the arts is an essential component of this mission. The arts inspire generations to create, express and grow. We have gravitated to this idea of “museums without boundaries,” which ignites creativity and collaboration, and leads to art in places it otherwise would not have been. We hope these works will inspire students who study here and, maybe along the way, we’ll also encourage a few future health care professionals to become future art enthusiasts as well.

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