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GVSU Canonizes Rich DeVos, but some students push back

September 13, 2018

The Rich DeVos love-fest continues in Grand Rapids, particularly in the news media, where there are daily posting on the “legacy” of the co-founder of Amway.

My favorite headline so far has been, For Rich DeVos, giving away his millions was a full-time job. This headline is not only misleading, it is inaccurate in terms what the organizations who were the recipients of his contributions actually do that is harmful. For an counter-narrative, see A more honest obituary for Richard DeVos Sr

The canonization of DeVos has also extended to areas outside of the news media. GVSU has already erected a monument of sorts to DeVos and placed it on the Allendale campus at GVSU. (seen here on the right)

The commemorate piece states:

This Laker Light shines in memory of one of Grand Valley State University’s greatest leaders and most loyal friends, Richard M DeVos Sr. Mr DeVos’ vision for Grand Valley, including the building of the downtown campus, will benefit students and our community for generations to come.

Such a statement is fundamentally based on the amount of money that Rich DeVos contributed over the years to the campus, especially since the school transitioned from Grand Valley State Colleges to Grand Valley State University. This transit was in many ways influenced by DeVos in that it went from a place that was called the “Berkeley of midwest” to a campus that has a significant business emphasis and has become increasingly more conservative.

Some students are not being quiet about this new monument to DeVos, as they have begun putting up around campus a poster (seen here) that attempts to provide a counter-narrative to benevolence of DeVos. We are grateful that the student who created the flyer added a nod to GRIID, by including a link to our DeVos Family Reader, entitled, We’re Rich and We Do What We Want

When it comes to Rich DeVos and GVSU, we’d also like to share a few other resources that are important if we are to understand the history and how GVSU has evolved.

First, there is a GR People’s History Project post based on a student newspaper from the late 1970s called The Insider, where students confronted DeVos while he was on the Board of Control. If you go to page 26 of The Insider issues we have posted, you can read the student criticisms of Rich DeVos in 1977. 

Another important resource that was created specifically for students and faculty, is What’s in a Name: A Popular Guide to Wealth and Influence at GVSU, which provides a visual depiction and maps to show where there are names of wealthy donors on buildings and what harm they have caused with their money, with DeVos being the primary perpetrator. 

Lastly, when we produced A People’s History of the LGBTQ Community in Grand Rapids film, we devoted a whole chapter to GVSU, which talks about how DeVos was a major impediment to LGBTQ justice. You can view the entire film at this link. The section on GVSU begins at 1:06:10. 


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