Betsy DeVos is an American entrepreneur, politician, activist and philanthropist presently serving as the 11th US Secretary of Education. A BA from ‘Calvin College’, Michigan, DeVos has remained active in politics for over three decades, emerging as the main Republican fundraiser from Michigan and a vocal advocate for education reform and “school vouchers”. She has backed Detroit charter school system and remained an advocate for charter schools, school voucher programs and school choice. She served prominent positions including Republican National Committeewoman for Michigan, Chairwoman of Michigan Republican Party four times, head of All Children Matter PAC and Chairwoman of board of Alliance for School Choice and the Acton Institute. She is a board member of ‘Foundation for Excellence in Education’. After Republican candidate for President Donald Trump picked her name as nominee for Secretary of Education in his cabinet she garnered a 50-50 vote in the senate amidst strong opposition. The tie was broken by Vice President Mike Pence’s vote in her favour thus marking such Cabinet nominee’s confirmation through Vice President’s tie-breaking vote for the first time in US history. She comes from a rich family background and is also married in one of the richest families of America.
- Betsy DeVos was born Elisabeth Dee Prince on January 8, 1958, in Holland, Michigan, US to Edgar Prince and Elsa (Zwiep) Prince (later Broekhuizen). Her father was a billionaire American businessman who founded the ‘Prince Corporation’, a supplier of automobile parts.She attended ‘Holland Christian High School’ in Michigan and then earned a BA degree from ‘Calvin College’ in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1979. She remained a member of the ‘Christian Reformed Church in North America’ and a member and elder of Grand Rapids’ ‘Mars Hill Bible Church’.Career
- Her journey with the Michigan Republican Party started in 1982 and since 1986 she has been elected and serving the party as a local precinct delegate for every two-year term, sixteen times in a row.An entrepreneur on her own right, DeVos co-founded the privately held investment management firm ‘Windquest Group’ with her husband Dick DeVos in 1989. The firm has holdings in technology, clean energy and manufacturing sectors among others.In 1989, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation was formed that over the years has donated millions of dollars to art organizations, hospitals, civic organizations, evangelical mission, Christian schools, charter schools and public schools among others.In 1992, she became the Republican National Committeewoman for Michigan and held the position till 1997. Meanwhile, in 1996 she was inducted as the Chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party. She resigned from the post in 2000 and was again re-elected without opposition in 2003.The Bush re-election campaign in 2004 saw her personally raising funds that amounted to over $150,000.In October 2008, a Republican fundraiser event was hosted by her at her residence that was headlined by the then US President George W. Bush.In 2008, she and her husband set up ‘The Dick & Betsy DeVos Scholarship’ to help MA, MS, or MBA students, especially the ones from developing countries, to attend ‘Thunderbird School of Global Management’.She served the National Republican Senatorial Committee as its finance chairperson for two years and during this time she closely worked on different projects with the Bush Administration.In 2012, she along with her husband produced the stage play ‘Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson’ for a Broadway run which however closed in December that year after running for 3 weeks garnering negative reviews.During the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, DeVos backed Marco Rubio and speaking of Donald Trump in March 2016, she said he is an "interloper" and "does not represent the Republican Party", but Trump on November 23, nominated her as Secretary of Education in his cabinet.Such declaration garnered mixed reaction from different sections. While it was censured by teachers unions and different education groups citing her inexperience in public schools and classrooms, the advocates of school choice welcomed it.Stephen Henderson, editor of Detroit Free Press, largest news daily in Detroit, Michigan, wrote "DeVos isn't an educator or an education leader". The American Federation of Teachers’ president Randi Weingarten said she is "the most ideological, anti-public education nominee".On the other hand, ‘The Chicago Tribune’, Republican Senator Ben Sasse, and former presidential candidates Carly Fiorina, Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush favoured her nomination.The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held her confirmation hearing on January 17, 2017 which turned into an intense debate with the Democratic senators hurling questions to her.She and her husband are members of board and leading stakeholders of ‘Neurocore’, a group that offers experimental biofeedback therapy for treating problems like anxiety, depression, autism and attention deficit hyperactivity.While the nomination process was going on, the issue of a possible conflict of interest was taken up by the Democratic senators who raised the question whether DeVos and other members of her family would "benefit financially from actions" that she can probably take in capacity of Secretary of Education.DeVos, on the other hand, told lawmakers that although she would divest from 102 companies and quit from the board of ‘Neurocore’, she will remain a stakeholder in the group.Her nomination was approved by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on a 12-11 party-line vote on January 31, 2017 and then sent for voting to the Senate floor.All Republican senators voted in her favour except two, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins who along with the Democrat and independent senators voted in her opposition making it a 50-50 tie.On February 7, 2017, the tie was broken in favour of DeVos by Vice President Mike Pence, confirming DeVos as education secretary. She assumed office as the 11th US Secretary of Education that day succeeding John King Jr.In her first official visit as Secretary of Education on February 10, 2017, she faced protests outside the Southwest, Washington, D.C. public middle school ‘Jefferson Academy’ when protestors tried to restrict her from entering the school.She gave her first extended policy address on March 29, 2017 at the ‘Brookings Institution’. On April 11, she rescinded many policy memos issued by her predecessor John King Jr. as also Ted Mitchell during the Obama Administration.Quite active in her community, DeVos chaired boards of ‘The Philanthropy Roundtable’ and ‘American Federation for Children’.She also remained board member of other organisations and institutes including ‘DeVos Institute for Arts Management’ at the University of Maryland, ‘Foundation for Excellence in Education’, ‘American Enterprise Institute’ and ‘ArtPrize’.Personal Life & Legacy
- She is married to Richard Marvin "Dick" DeVos Jr. more famous as Dick DeVos, a businessman who served as CEO of ‘Amway’, a multi-level marketing company co-founded by his billionaire father, Richard DeVos.For decades the DeVos family has remained dedicated to the ‘Republican Party’, making huge donations to the party, associated committees and political candidates that count to over $17 million since 1989.In 2006, Dick DeVos ran for Governor of Michigan as a Republican nominee but was defeated by Jennifer Granholm, the then Democratic incumbent.The DeVos family, having an estimated net worth of $5.4 billion, ranked 88 in the Forbes’ list of richest families of America in 2016.Erik Prince, brother of DeVos, who served as an officer of the United States Navy SEALs founded the American private military company ‘Blackwater’ (presently ‘Academi’).DeVos and her husband are blessed with four children - Richard Marvin (Rick) III, Ryan, Andrea and Elisabeth (Elissa) and one grandchild.
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