The Influence of Dick DeVos in Grand Rapids

Dick and Betsy DeVos have devoted much of their adult lives to producing real change in the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The couple are well-known within their state as providing mega donations to the GOP. As major donors to the party, their political influence can be seen in significant changes in state laws that have affected both labor and education.


One of the earliest instances of Dick DeVos exerting major influence in the Grand Rapids area came in 1991. At the time, investors in Grand Rapids were planning on building a multi-purpose arena that would house both sports and convention gatherings. The location being considered was right in the middle of downtown Grand Rapids.


Dick DeVos was not in favor of that planned expansion. According to DeVos, he was worried about the potential detrimental affect that the convention center might have on the downtown area. DeVos compared the potential convention center’s construction to the construction of the Pontiac Silverdome and Palace of Auburn Hills in Detroit. Downtown Detroit experienced a profound loss when the Lions and Pistons left the city. DeVos did not want the same fate falling upon Grand Rapids with the building of the multipurpose convention center.


Although DeVos was still working on making his way to the position of CEO in Amway Corp., a company owned by his family, he immediately started a lobby campaign against the convention center’s opening. As a result of DeVos’ campaign efforts, a group of business leaders formed Grand Action, which in turn paved the way for several construction projects in Grand Rapids. The construction of the Van Andel Arena, the DeVos Place Convention Center, Grand Rapids City Market, Michigan State University’s medical school and the DeVos Performance Hall are credited towards positively influencing a city trying to build their downtown and halt suburban sprawl.


Dick DeVos is also credited with changing the face of the Grand Rapids airport. When he cold-called AirTran Airways’ CEO to discuss the company coming to the Grand Rapids’ airport, it proved to be a fateful call that would ultimately completely change air travel for the entire West Michigan area. Shortly after AirTran Airways came to Grand Rapids, it was purchased by Southwest. DeVos was part of an essential group of businessmen credited for convincing Southwest to stay and lower their air fares.


After successfully convincing Southwest to remain in the area, Dick DeVos established the West Michigan Aviation Academy with his wife. Dick DeVos, who is a longtime pilot, was also elected to the top board of the Federal Aviation Administration in 2017. Membership is given to respected leaders among those who work in operation, policy, and businesses related to aviation.


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Betsy DeVos: Individualizing Education

Simply because Betsy DeVos is a successful heir does not mean that she does not understand how hard it is to make decisions that will impact the future of her children. Every parent frets over what is best for their children and what kind of adult they’re gonna grow into. They want the very best for their children, but sometimes when it comes to their education it feels as though they are handcuffed to the public school that services their community. What are they supposed to do when that public school begins hemorrhaging funds and teachers? They are stuck there and they feel as though there is nothing that they can do to change their situation. In many instances, parents don’t know that there are other options available to them. They believe that the only way that they can get out of such a situation is through private school or moving. That is not always the case, DeVos mentioned in a recent interview with the online Journal Philanthropy Roundtable. Parents can find affordable options that align with their budgetary needs and still offer their children a better future.


Michigan is one of the leading states for school choice. It is no coincidence that Betsy DeVos hails from this forward-thinking state. She has been an outspoken philanthropist and advocate for a functioning school choice system within that state. While her plans do call for a diversion of funds to the school choice systems, it is not intended to starve out the public-school system. The problem is that the public-school system has reached a point of complacency. They do not feel challenged to keep their current student population because the attendance for their institution is based on geography and is somewhat mandatory. DeVos believes that if the public schools were challenged they would be more open to the necessary changes that would help resolve a lot of the issues that students face. States such as Indiana, Louisiana, and Florida are already passing legislation that will support more school choice programming.


So, what does this mean for parents? Well, parents should become more informed as to which type of options are available to them. Regardless of where parents are located they always have the option of enrolling their children in an online institution. This will allow them to act as a step in for other teachers within the child’s environment and take on a more supportive role in the education process. Students will see that the material is shown at a pace that is easier for them to maintain. Another advantage of an online institution is that parents can match the material to their children’s learning style and hopefully increase the marks that their children receive. It is easier to learn something when it is presented to you in a style that you find thrilling or entertaining. Visual learners can learn visually, and auditory learners can hear the material, while those students that need a more hands-on approach can work with their parents on specific examples. DeVos is not looking to kill the system with change, but to individualize it.


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Michael Lacey, Prominent Mathematician

Michael Lacey has reached near the pinnacle of his field in mathematics. He has become a fellow of the American Mathematical Society. There, he laid the foundation for graduates, undergraduates, and postdoctoral students alike to accomplish the same feats as himself. Lacey has been giving advice to many undergraduates who eventually join the ranks in graduate school. Overall, he has a credit of 10 post doctoral students to his name under his tutelage. But it wasn’t always this way for Michael Lacey. Born in 1959 he is an American mathematician with many awards to his name. Because of his success, he has been allowed to be the director of many monetary grants like VIGRE and MCTP from the NSF, or National Science Foundation.


It all started out when he achieved his doctorate degree in 1987 at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He has worked on many mathematical series related to probability, ergodic theory, and most notably harmonic analysis. Additionally he has made a thesis of banach spaces, which is in the realm of iterated logarithms. In his post-doctorate life, Lacey attained a seat with UNC, also known as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He did the same as well at Louisiana State University, or LSU. In Chapel Hill, Lacey and cohort Walter Phillipp worked on the central limit theorem, which is a main principle of probability in mathematics.


By age 30 years old in 1989, Lacey migrated to Indiana University where he eventually received accolades from the National Science Foundation Fellowship. At Indiana, he was studying bilinear Hilbert transform. At the time this was only a conjecture, until the year 1996. Beginning in ’96, Lacey started his professorship at GIT, Georgia Institute of Technology. Eventually Michael Lacy received a Guggenheim Fellowship for his work together with cohort Xiaochun Li; He has also received awards from the Simons Foundation. More information on Michael Lacy can be found here.