Rich DeVos, businessman and community leaders, philanthropist and patron of the arts, was a dear friend and stalwart support of the Grand Rapids Symphony.
With a heavy heart and great sadness, the Grand Rapids Symphony mourns the passing of DeVos, who was associated with the Grand Rapids Symphony for nearly 50 years.
Richard M. DeVos, co-founder of Amway, died Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018. He was 92 years old.
Both Rich DeVos and his wife, Helen DeVos, who died in October 2017, believed in the power of music to sustain and nurture the soul.
“Rich and Helen DeVos’s vision for the Grand Rapids Symphony gave us the orchestra we have today,” said Peter Perez, President and CEO of the Grand Rapids Symphony. “Their guidance and support truly was transformational.”
“The orchestra that traveled to New York City in April for a critically acclaimed concert in Carnegie Hall simply would not exist without their support,” Perez said.
In 1974, the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation provided the initial funds to hire five full-time musicians – two violinists, a violist, a cellist and a double bassist, beginning the process of transforming the Grand Rapids Symphony from a community orchestra into a professional orchestra. Four of the five were organized as the DeVos String Quartet. Today, the four principal players of the Grand Rapids Symphony’s first and second violins, viola and cello sections continue to perform as the DeVos String Quartet.
The couple was instrumental in building DeVos Performance Hall, the orchestra’s principal performance venue, which opened in October 1980 as part of the former Grand Center Convention Center.
Significantly, the DeVos Foundation also funded the Grand Rapids Symphony’s first full-time development director to raise money for the orchestra.
Today, the Grand Rapids Symphony’s 10-concert classical series is known as the Richard and Helen DeVos Classical series.
In 2001, the Grand Rapids Symphony presented a Bravo Award, its highest honor, to Rich DeVos.
Rich and Helen DeVos guaranteed that their vision for the future growth and success of the Grand Rapids Symphony would live on into the future. In 2012, the orchestra launched its $40 million Legacy of Excellence Campaign to build a permanent endowment to secure its future.
The DeVoses led the campaign with a $20 million leadership gift. Within four years, the Grand Rapids Symphony met its goal, securing an additional $20 million in cash, gifts, ongoing pledges and estate plans from more than 150 individuals, couples, corporations and foundations.
“Helen’s love of music drew us into the organization, and we’ve experienced the Symphony’s growth into an orchestra recognized nationally for the quality of its concerts and educational programs,” said Richard DeVos at the conclusion of the campaign in April 2016. “We’re glad to help preserve and sustain our orchestra, which helps create a positive atmosphere for growth in our community.”
Rich and Helen DeVos often were seen in the audience at Grand Rapids Symphony concerts. They were together at a concert in DeVos Performance Hall just a couple weeks before Helen’s death.
Music director Marcelo Lehninger first met and had dinner with Rich and Helen DeVos shortly after he was appointed Music Director in 2016. Both were keenly interested in his career and his background.
“They were very kind, both of them,” Lehninger recalled. “And they were people of such great faith. That was very powerful.”
“We talked about the power of perseverance,” Lehninger said. “Rich said he accomplished all he did because he was perseverant.”
“They loved this community, and they invested in this community,” Lehninger said. “The fact that they invested in the Grand Rapids Symphony made it possible to have the symphony orchestra we have today.”
Rich DeVos will be remembered next week when the Grand Rapids Symphony opens its 2018-19 season with Beethoven’s 7th on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14 and 15 under Music Director Marcelo Lehninger.