Career ladder: DeVos has a bachelor's degree in business administration and political science from Calvin College. In 1989, she and her husband, Dick, founded Windquest Group and the Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation. Her political achievements include being elected Republican National Committeewoman for Michigan, from 1992-97, and serving as Michigan Republican Party chairwoman, from 1996-2000 and 2003-2005. DeVos, 58, was a Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts board member from 2004-2010 and is on the board of the center's DeVos Institute for Arts Management.
Power metrics: Windquest Group is a private enterprise and investment management group focused on technology, manufacturing, clean technology, hospitality and nonprofits. Meanwhile, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, with $15.1 million in income in 2014, focuses on education, community, arts, justice and leadership. The American Federation for Children and Alliance for School Choice is a national organization with $9.5 billion in 2014 income that advocates for school vouchers and scholarship tax credit programs. A tireless advocate of schools of choice, DeVos served in the 1990s on the boards of Children First America and the American Education Reform Council, which sought to expand school choice through vouchers and tax credits. She and her husband worked to pass Michigan's charter school bill in 1993 and backed a failed 2000 effort to amend Michigan's constitution to allow tax-credit scholarships or vouchers. She and her husband then formed the Great Lakes Education Project, a political action committee championing charter schools. Betsy DeVos is also involved in other political organizations that back schools of choice issues, including the All Children Matter PAC.
Super power: "The ability to look really long-term, to be 'big picture' or visionary. I find really great people to partner with."
Biggest setback: The failed 2000 campaign to "bring education choices" through a ballot initiative "really did send me on a different trajectory," leading to strategic and tactical changes.
What prompted you to become involved in philanthropy: "It was very much a personal and iterative process. Dick and I chose the best education for our children, realizing at the same time that there were many parents and children — there still are — who didn't have the same opportunity. And I didn't think that was fair. I still don't think it's fair."
Advice for success in general: "Male or female, enjoy and be passionate about what you do."
"A-ha" moment or milestone, when you realized the professional role you are in is where you are meant to be: DeVos sees politics — something she views as being related to her philanthropic endeavors — as a turning point. "There was a moment in the early 1990s when I decided I really needed to run for (Republican) party committeewoman. I still enjoy politics, and I knew I could use those skills to advance choices for kids in education."
How Michigan stands up to the rest of the nation in terms of education: "Michigan actually is quite a ways behind other states (in allowing) power for parents to choose any kind of education." DeVos blames the state's constitution, which she says does not allow private schools of choice.
The best advice from a mentor or role model: While no particular phrases come to mind, DeVos said she had two parents "who always encouraged me to be the best I could be" and to "use my skills to serve others and do good."
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