Dick and Betsy DeVos: helping to reshape Grand Rapids and America’s institutions

Few people have been as influential on the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, as Dick DeVos. Dick DeVos is credited with helping transform the Grand Rapid skyline as well as making the Grand Rapids airport a major airline hub in the Midwestern United States. Through their donations to the GOP and contributions to various philanthropies, Dick DeVos and his wife Betsy have reformed state education and labor laws and promoted health services and education in Michigan and throughout the United States.


In 1991, Dick DeVos was on track to become CEO of Amway Corporation. During this time, Grand Rapids was considering building a sports and convention center north of downtown Grand Rapids. Seeing what similar arenas had done to downtown Detroit, DeVos opposed the idea and began to lobby against it. DeVos and other business leaders that opposed the arena formed a group called Grand Action. Since its formation, Grand Action is credited with transforming the Grand Rapids Skyline, by driving construction of buildings such as The DeVos Place Convention Center and the Grand Rapids City Market. Dick DeVos also played a key role in expanding the Gerald Ford International Airport, making Grand Rapids a major airline hub in the Midwest.


The Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation has donated $138.7 million dollars to promote arts and culture, leadership programs, and health services, including a $12.5 million-dollar donation toward the foundation of a children’s hospital in Grand Rapids. One of their main passions is in providing educational opportunities to underprivileged families. Their efforts have included scholarships, promotion of charter schools in western Michigan, and the creation of an aviation charter high school at the Grand Rapids airport.


Dick and Betsy DeVos are major contributors to the GOP and have been involved in the reform of state education and labor laws. However, not all of their political ideas have been immediately successful. In 2000 their proposed amendment to create vouchers for students to attend private schools was rejected by voters. The duo persevered and played a role in the adoption of tax vouchers in other parts of the country, including Washington D.C.


Recently, Dick and Betsy DeVos have taken on major roles in Washington D.C. Dick’s involvement in the Grand Rapids airport development and his interest in aviation helped him get appointed to the FAA’s Management Advisory Council in 2017, where he will advise on policy, spending, and planning. The DeVos family’s efforts in education helped Betsy achieve the position of the United States Secretary of Education in 2017.


Beginning by reshaping Grand Rapids, Dick and Betsy DeVos have helped achieve reform of health services, labor laws, and education in Michigan. Through their continued efforts, the two are now serving roles in federal government positions, where they will continue to influence and change laws and policies on a national level.


To learn more, visit http://www.dbdvfoundation.org/.

The AIA – Putting Architecture In The Forefront

The American Institute of Architects is the premier architectural organization in the world. The AIA incorporated in 1857 when a group of 13 architects met in New York and established as its goal to “form an organization to promote architects and architecture.” New York created the first chapter of the AIA followed shortly after that by chapters in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston.

Since those humble beginnings, the AIA is now an organization that boasts 90,000 members in more than 250 chapters in the United States including three U.S. territories, Europe, and Asia. Last year, AIA celebrated its 150th anniversary at its annual convention in New York.

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The AIA is at the forefront of architecture in the world because it has its hands on the pulse of emerging trends in design. The leader of the AIA is Robert Ivy, the executive vice president and chief executive officer. Robert Ivy, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects since 1993, is passionate about architecture. Under his inspired leadership, the AIA is positioned as a leader in the field of architecture through its advocacy, through promoting connections between architecture and public health and social justice issues, and through designing structures that use solar energy to reduce the effects of global warming.

Robert Ivy and the AIA realize the importance of designing aesthetically pleasing structures. They also want functional and environmentally friendly structures as well. Robert Ivy and the AIA have launched a 10-year commitment to designing structures and urban spaces that promote public health and safety.

When Robert Ivy was named the executive vice president and chief executive officer in 2011, Robert stated, “The AIA is a stellar organization, one that I have always been proud to be a part of. The brand represents the highest standard of design and professional ethics.” Robert Ivy has worked tirelessly to increase the visibility of architects and designers and to solidify AIA as the top global architectural organization.

What Drives Mike Baur?

Mike Baur is not a complicated man. He’s driven by things that make him happy. If it doesn’t make him happy, he doesn’t do it. That simple philosophy also drives his career choices. Most people know Mike Baur as a brilliant banker because his first love was finance.

In 1991, he started an apprenticeship at a Union Bank of Switzerland. He very quickly rose up the ranks and became one of their best banking experts. His success at the company came as no surprise to most. On his first day, a hiring manager realized his potential and predicted his success.

Banking was supposed to be his long-term plan. He’d loved banking and finance nearly all his life. Yet, after nearly 20 years at UBS, he started wanting something different. At first, he thought that maybe he was just tired of working for UBS. So, in 2008, he left the company and joined another bank.

For a while, he was happy working at Clariden Leu. He got to work at their Zurich office, which was interesting, but the work continued to drag him down. After the recession, bankers began devoting countless hours to red tape, which was the final straw for Baur.

Mike Baur quit banking in 2014. He wanted to do something different and the only way to do that was to walk away from his 20-plus-year career as a banker. His next venture was Swiss Startup Factory. This was a company he co-founded with Max Meister.

Swiss Startup Factory offers lots of services, mostly revolving around mentoring and training. The most preferred service is SSUF’s three-month Accelerator Program. This program teaches startups everything from basic bookkeeping to marketing on a global scale. SSUF also encourages startups to network with one another, and try to obtain funding from outside investors.

After spending some time away from banking, Baur began missing the excitement of finance. At Swiss Startup Factory, he concentrates mostly on financing and fundraising but that’s not enough. The same year he co-founded SSUF, he also founded Think Reloaded. Think Reloaded was his way of reentering the banking industry without having to deal with red tape.

Think Reloaded is just an advisory firm, but it makes him happy. His life dramatically changed throughout his career but one thing remained constant: his pursuit of happiness.


How Ara Chackerian Has Made An Impact On Healthcare

Ara Chackerian is a professional investor who specializes in early-stage healthcare businesses. After graduating from Florida State University with a marketing degree in 2001 he launched his first business, BMC Diagnostics. This is a company in the healthcare industry which provides diagnostic imaging services to its clients. Six years later he launched his investment firms, ASC Capital Holdings, for which he is the general partner.

Since founding ASC Capital Holdings, Ara Chackerian has co-founded a couple of other healthcare companies. The first was PipelineRx. This business offers clinical Telepharmacy services to pharmacies across the United States. He also co-founded TMS Health Partners in January 2015 which is based in San Francisco and offers services to patients who have clinical depression. He is additionally a member of the board for two other firms, Juma Ventures and Mint Medical Education.

As an environmentalist and philanthropist, Ara Chackerian established a farm in Nicaragua that grows teak. As the teak is growing it takes a lot of CO2 out of the air which helps with climate change. This business also helps to prevent deforestation and is sustainable and environmentally sound. Before he bought this farm it was used to graze cattle which meant local farmers had chopped down all of the trees.

The teak farm is called Finca de Limonapa. Ara Chackerian hired these farmers to work on his farm in order to grow the teak and provide them with good paying jobs. He also has other crops on this farm such as moringa, pitaya, and sesame, although teak makes up the majority of the output. Ara also has a Nicaraguan charity he set up to support children and their education.

About nine years ago Ara Chackarian visited Armenia along with his father since his grandparents emigrated from there. When they were there they witnessed the fact that young orphans leave the orphanage with no skills to get a job and no hope. They changed this for young orphaned women by establishing the Nor Luyce Mentoring Center for Youth. This nonprofit teaches job and life skills to these women so that they can reach their true potential. You can visit Vimeo for more.

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