Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Education Pick, Is A Billionaire With Deep Ties To The Christian Reformed Community

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s choice for education secretary, has ties to the Christian Reformed community in Michigan.

But in religious circles, the DeVos name is synonymous with key philanthropic efforts in Christian communities. DeVos, 58, graduated from Calvin College, a Christian Reformed Church school that is named after the famed Protestant reformer John Calvin, where the DeVos name is well-known. The DeVos family, heirs to the Amway Corp. fortune, are prolific donors in Michigan Republican and religious circles.

 

President-elect Donald Trump announced Wednesday [Nov. 23] that he would nominate Betsy DeVos, a billionaire philanthropist with deep ties to the Christian Reformed community in Michigan, as his education secretary.

DeVos is politically known in Michigan for her push for private school voucher programs, a position that has been controversial within public education circles. But in religious circles, the DeVos name is synonymous with key philanthropic efforts in Christian communities. DeVos, 58, graduated from Calvin College, a Christian Reformed Church school that is named after the famed Protestant reformer John Calvin, where the DeVos name is well-known.

The DeVos family, heirs to the Amway Corp. fortune, are prolific donors in Michigan Republican and religious circles. DeVos is a former Michigan Republican Party chairwoman whose husband unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006.

She is daughter of Edgar Prince, the founder of Prince Corp., an automobile parts supplier based in Holland, Mich. While her mother, Elsa, and her husband’s parents have supported anti-gay marriage efforts in the past, Betsy Devos has focused primarily on education.

DeVos has been member and an elder at the large nondenominational Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, which was formerly led by popular author Rob Bell. Former president of Fuller Seminary Rich Mouw said he served on a committee with her to replace Bell, and he said DeVos is heavily influenced by Abraham Kuyper, a Dutch writer and Calvinist theologian.

“I wouldn’t consider her to be right wing,” Mouw said. “She’s a classic free-enterprise conservative. She takes public life, art and politics very seriously.”

Unlike an individualistic evangelical approach, she has focused on the common good and has seen education as a big part of that, said Doug Koopman, a political scientist at Calvin College. She will not likely be one to focus on curriculum issues like evolution and creationism, which has been a concern in some conservative Christian circles. Instead, her concerns about school vouchers reflect a larger concern about what’s best for the public.

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