Born In: Holland, Michigan, United States
Betsy DeVos is an American entrepreneur, politician, activist, and philanthropist. In 2017, she became the 11th US Secretary of Education. A B.A. graduate from ‘Calvin College,’ Michigan, DeVos has remained active in politics for over three decades. Emerging as the main Republican fundraiser from Michigan, DeVos is also a vocal advocate for education reform and ‘school vouchers.’ She has backed the Detroit charter school system and remains an advocate for charter schools, school voucher programs, and school choice. She has served important positions, including Republican National Committeewoman for Michigan, chairwoman of ‘Michigan Republican Party’ (two times), head of ‘All Children Matter PAC,’ and chairwoman of the board of ‘Alliance for School Choice’ and the ‘Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.’ She is a board member of ‘Foundation for Excellence in Education.’ After President Donald Trump picked her name as nominee for the post of 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 favor, thus marking the 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 married to Dick DeVos, who comes from one of the richest families in America.
Also Known As: Elisabeth Dee DeVos
Spouse/Ex-: Dick DeVos (m. 1979)
father: Edgar Prince
mother: Elsa Zwiep
siblings: Erik Prince
children: Andrea DeVos, Elisabeth DeVos, Richard DeVos III, Ryan DeVos
Born Country: United States
Notable Alumni: Holland Christian High School, Calvin College
Ancestry: Dutch American
U.S. State: Michigan
education: Calvin College, Holland Christian High School
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’ during her growing up years. She is also a member and elder of Grand Rapids’ ‘Mars Hill Bible Church.’
Her journey with the ‘Michigan Republican Party’ started in 1982. Since 1986, she has been elected and serving the party as a local precinct delegate for every two-year term, 16 times in a row.
An entrepreneur in 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 Family Foundation’ was formed. Over the years, the foundation 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 re-elected without opposition in 2003.
The Bush re-election campaign in 2004 saw her raising funds that amounted to over $150,000.
In October 2008, a Republican fundraiser event was hosted by her at her residence. The event 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, and MBA students, especially the ones from developing countries, attend ‘Thunderbird School of Global Management.’
She served the National Republican Senatorial Committee as its finance chairperson for two years. During this time, she worked closely with the Bush administration on different projects.
In 2012, DeVos and her husband produced the stage play ‘Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson.’ The play, which received negative reviews, ran for three weeks before being taken off stage in December that year.
During the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, DeVos backed Marco Rubio. Speaking about Donald Trump in March 2016, she said he is an "interloper" and "does not represent the Republican Party." Surprisingly, Trump nominated her as Secretary of Education in his cabinet on November 23.
Trump’s decision garnered mixed reaction from different sections. While it was criticized by teachers’ unions and different education groups, the advocates of school choice welcomed his decision.
Stephen Henderson, editor of ‘Detroit Free Press,’ 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 favored 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 at her.
She and her husband are members of the 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 wanted to know whether DeVos and other members of her family would "benefit financially from actions" that she might probably take as the Secretary of Education.
DeVos, on the other hand, told lawmakers that she would divest herself of 102 companies and quit as the board member of ‘Neurocore,’ but 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. It was then sent for voting to the Senate floor.
All Republican senators, except Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, voted in her favor. Murkowski and Collins along with the Democrat and independent senators voted against her, making it a 50-50 tie.
On February 7, 2017, the tie was broken in favor of DeVos by Vice President Mike Pence, confirming DeVos as education secretary. The same day, she assumed office as the 11th US Secretary of Education, 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’ where 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. She also revoked the policies issued by Ted Mitchell during the Obama Administration.
In October 2017, she repealed 72 guidance documents of the ‘Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services’ (OSERS).
At a gathering in March 2018, she and three other cabinet members propagated an idea to start a school safety commission in order to provide more meaningful and better safety for children.
In September 2018, DeVos lost a federal lawsuit, which was filed against her in July 2017, by 19 States and District of Columbia for unlawfully delaying the implementation of certain regulation.
In May 2019, a report released by the Education Department Inspector General concluded that DeVos had used personal email accounts for government business. Moreover, the report also claimed that she hadn't preserved the emails properly. She was also charged for contempt of court for disobeying court orders.
Quite active in her community, DeVos chaired boards of ‘The Philanthropy Roundtable’ and ‘American Federation for Children.’
She also remained board member of other organizations and institutes, including ‘DeVos Institute for Arts Management’ at the ‘University of Maryland,’ ‘Foundation for Excellence in Education,’ ‘American Enterprise Institute,’ and ‘ArtPrize.’
She is married to Richard Marvin "Dick" DeVos Jr., better known as Dick DeVos. A businessman, Dick served as the 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. They have donated over $17 million since 1989.
In 2006, Dick DeVos ran for governor of Michigan as a Republican nominee, but was defeated by Jennifer Granholm.
With an estimated net worth of $5.4 billion, the DeVos family was ranked 88th in Forbes’ list of richest families of America in 2016.
Erik Prince, brother of Betsy DeVos, who served as an officer in the ‘United States Navy SEALs,’ founded the American private military company ‘Blackwater’ (presently known as Academi).
DeVos and her husband are blessed with four children - Richard Marvin (Rick) III, Ryan, Andrea, and Elisabeth (Elissa). They also have eight grandchildren.
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