Washington , April 7, 2010--Richard and Helen DeVos, two of America's most admired philanthropists, will be saluted this weekend by The Heritage Foundation, the leading Washington think tank whose vision they helped sharpen.
The DeVoses are scheduled to receive the Clare Boothe Luce Award, Heritage's highest honor for dedication to the conservative movement, during a luncheon Friday, April 9, at the policy research institute's three-day Leadership Conference and Board Meeting in Naples, Fla.
"Rich DeVos inspired countless people around the globe to dream big dreams," Heritage President Edwin J. Feulner said, summarizing what he told a DeVos biographer. "Rich also left a permanent impression on The Heritage Foundation by calling for a shared vision statement to ensure our lasting mark on social policy in America.
"Rich and Helen made it their purpose, through a generous endowment of the DeVos Center here at Heritage, to keep fighting for family, faith and civic virtue to remain at the heart of American life -- and of effective solutions to poverty, crime and family breakdown."
Richard DeVos, 84, is best known as co-founder of Amway, the pioneering direct sales company he launched over 50 years ago with a high school friend, and as a much-imitated motivational speaker and author.
The DeVoses, who married in 1953, are longtime contributors to conservative causes and candidates. They have been generous donors to Heritage, which named its Richard & Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society after the couple in August 2004.
Feulner credits Rich DeVos with inspiring the think tank to painstakingly draft and adopt its own "vision statement." Today, the resulting 17 words are emblazoned above the main entrance to Heritage's headquarters building on Capitol Hill:
The Heritage Foundation is committed to building an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society flourish.
Those words also greet congressmen, foreign dignitaries and anyone else who steps inside an elevator at Heritage, and are featured on the organization's Web site, heritage.org, and in its publications.
"Owing to the vision of Rich DeVos, who rarely is without Helen at his side," Feulner said, "Heritage and its 625,000 members are focused on the goal represented by this vision statement."
Heritage Board Chairman Thomas A. Saunders III will join Feulner in presenting the Luce Award to the DeVoses on behalf of the organization's trustees, who represent those members and donors. Past recipients of the award include conservative icons Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and William F. Buckley Jr.
The DeVoses long have financially supported improved health care, higher education, the arts and a range of Christian ministries, especially in hometown Grand Rapids and in central Florida. Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, created in 1993, continues to expand to serve residents of west Michigan.
At Heritage, DeVos Center researchers examine the roles filled by religion, family and community in society and provide resources to policymakers, scholars and journalists, among others.
"The mission of DeVos Center is to improve public awareness of these institutions and make serious reflection on them part of shaping policy," said Jennifer A. Marshall, Heritage's director of domestic policy studies, who also directs the center. "We want to convey how indispensable family, religion and moral virtue are in American society and in conservative philosophy."
In announcing the initial $1.8 million grant to establish the policy center in 2004, DeVos expressed his abiding faith in "the power of free enterprise and democracy in giving people around the world hope, opportunity and a better life as endowed by the Creator."
Helen and Richard DeVos both graduated in 1947 from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, following his service in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.
DeVos also is owner and chairman of the NBA team Orlando Magic. His four books include "Compassionate Capitalism" and "Hope from My Heart: Ten Lessons for Life."
He founded Amway Corp. in 1959 with high school classmate Jay Van Andel, a Heritage trustee until his death in 2004. Amway Global became a subsidiary in 2000 of parent company Alticor, which DeVos serves as a trustee.
He is former president of the Council for National Policy; a trustee of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia; honorary trustee of the Delaware-based Intercollegiate Studies Institute; and past trustee of Michigan-based Northwood University (home of the DeVos Graduate School of Management).
The DeVoses have four grown children and 16 grandchildren. Their first son, Dick, was CEO of Amway from 1993 to 2002 and the Republican nominee for governor of Michigan in 2006.
The Heritage Foundation is the nation's most broadly supported public policy research institute, with more than 625,000 individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in February 1973, has a staff of 255 and an annual expense budget of $75.3 million.
'Your Vision Is Your Definition of Success'
What follows is an excerpt from Pat Williams' 2004 book, "How to Be Like Rich DeVos: Succeeding with Integrity in Business and Life" (HCI).
"Having a dream helps fortify your confidence," Rich DeVos says. "But along with the dream you have to set tangible, realizable goals and stick to them. Too many people get intrigued by the grass on the other side of the fence, and every two or three years run off to some new opportunity. And while there's nothing wrong with seeking opportunity, in order to find it you've got to be a builder.
"Those who keep flitting from one dream to the next are what I call 'opportunity seekers,' not builders," Rich adds. "People who go into something new all the time spend their whole lives starting over."
Edwin J. Feulner, president of The Heritage Foundation, told the author:
"Rich DeVos has inspired countless people around the globe to dream big dreams. He has made a permanent impression on The Heritage Foundation and on my family and me. After visiting with our staff at our headquarters, Rich pulled me aside and said, 'What this organization needs is a vision statement. You and your team need a shared vision if you are going to have a lasting impact on social policy in America. A bold but practical vision will help you to reach those long-term goals you've been telling me about.'
"I knew he was right because I have watched his phenomenal success as a businessman and a leader. I was so captured by his enthusiasm that I began working with the Heritage leadership on a vision statement. We worked away at it for almost three years, producing dozens of drafts until we got it just right. We received counsel and advice from employees, trustees, donors and several congressmen and senators. Every time we revised that statement, we knew we weren't just changing words around--we were shaping the future of our institution.
"... A week after the Board of Trustees approved our final vision statement, I got together with Rich at a huge convention where he was one of the featured speakers. I showed him the finished statement--17 words representing three years of work. I said, 'You know, Rich, that statement of vision is going to guide everything our organization does from now on--and we owe that statement to you.'
"Rich was so moved and touched by the impact he had made on our organization that he decided on the spot to change the speech he was scheduled to deliver. He sat down and scribbled a few notes, then he went out and gave a rousing speech that he called, 'Our Vision for America.'
"Because of the vision of Rich DeVos, The Heritage Foundation and its supporters are focused on the goal represented by this vision statement: The Heritage Foundation is committed to building an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society flourish.
"God bless America--and God bless Rich DeVos!"
Every organization, corporation or team needs a vision. Without a vision, how will you know what success is? More importantly, how will you know how to get there? Your vision is your definition of success. It seizes your imagination and pulls you along. Your vision is what you struggle for, compete for, fight for and sacrifice for.
Great leaders like Rich DeVos are people of vision.