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Grand Valley mourns supporter Helen DeVos

  • Helen DeVos was inducted into the universityýs Hall of Fame with an Enrichment Award in 2014.
  • The university recognized the support and leadership of Helen and Rich with the naming of the Richard M. DeVos Center.
  • From left, President Thomas J. Haas, Rich DeVos, Helen DeVos and President Emeritus Don Lubbers.
  • Helen DeVos
  • Helen DeVos at Enrichment Dinner
  • From left, Rich DeVos, Helen DeVos, Pamella DeVos, Dan DeVos
  • Helen DeVos and Dan DeVos
  • Helen DeVos and Rick DeVos

Posted on October 19, 2017

The Grand Valley State University community is mourning the death of Helen DeVos, one of the university’s most steadfast supporters. The wife of Amway co-founder Rich DeVos died October 18, at age 90.

Helen DeVos was a dedicated philanthropist whose lifetime of giving has made a significant impact on West Michigan and beyond. Her generosity and love for helping others have enhanced the community greatly, especially in the areas of education, music, the arts and health care.

Throughout her lifetime, Helen provided exceptional leadership and service to Grand Valley State University and the Grand Valley University Foundation where she most recently served as a member of the Advisory Cabinet. 

“Helen had a deep passion for the transformative power of education,” said Grand Valley President Thomas J. Haas. “As a lifelong learner, she was a tremendous role model for our students and everyone she knew. We will miss her kind and generous support and guidance over the years, as well as her friendship. Our hearts go out to Rich and the entire DeVos family.”

The couple had a long and steady relationship with the university that changed the future for students and for the region.

In the 1990s, Helen and Rich were extremely active in helping to secure land and funding for the Grand Design 2000 Campaign, an effort that expanded Grand Valley’s downtown Grand Rapids Pew Campus and the Eberhard Center. The university recognized the support and leadership of Helen and Rich with the naming of the Richard M. DeVos Center. 

In 2000, Helen and Rich garnered the support of their friends and community and raised the funds necessary to construct Grand Valley’s Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences in downtown Grand Rapids. Their hard work and vision helped to secure the city as a medical hub for the region and the entire state of Michigan. 

Both Helen and her husband served as honorary co-chairs of the Shaping Our Future campaign, which helped expand scholarships for students, improve and expand Grand Valley’s facilities, strengthen key programs and provide much-needed support to faculty. The DeVoses also made the lead gift to help build the L. William Seidman Building as an extension of the Pew Grand Rapids Campus.

Grand Valley State University honored Helen with the naming of the Helen DeVos Presidential Scholarship, an award granted to students who show promise in music and the arts. The university also granted her an honorary Doctor of Arts degree in 2010. She was recognized as a Grand Steward of the university in 2011, and was inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame with an Enrichment Award in 2014.

Grand Valley’s President Emeritus Don Lubbers worked with Helen through many of the university’s projects and understands the profound impact she had on the vibrancy and climate of the community and to many individuals as well.

“Helen was a special person who projected steadiness and warmth,” said Lubbers. “I have always admired her strength, kindness and courage, which she brought to everything she did for this community and for Grand Valley. We will miss her greatly.”

As a special tribute to Helen and her support for Grand Valley, the carillon towers on the Allendale and Pew Grand Rapids campuses will have a blue "Laker Light" that will last through the funeral and a few days afterward. The Laker Light will shine in honor of Helen and will allow students, alumni, faculty, staff and community members to remember her in their own personal ways.

The GVSU flag will be at half-staff for the next two weeks to honor Helen.

For funeral information, visit

Click here for excerpts from DeVos' 2014 Enrichment Award acceptance speech.