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Amway Heirs Pledge $22.5 Million to Aid Kennedy Center Training

Dick and Betsy DeVos
Dick and Betsy DeVos in Washington. They have pledged $22.5 million to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to expand training of U.S. arts administrators. Photographer: Margot Schulman/Kennedy Center via Bloomberg

A Michigan couple, including the son of Amway Corp.’s co-founder, has pledged $22.5 million to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to expand training of U.S. arts administrators.

Kennedy Center president Michael M. Kaiser said the gift from Betsy and Dick DeVos will help arts administrators for nonprofit organizations get specialized training.

“I’m thrilled,” Kaiser, 56, said in a phone interview.

The money will be used by the Kennedy Center’s 9-year-old arts management institute, which has trained about 4,000 arts administrators in long-term planning, marketing and other areas. The institute runs programs in New York, Chicago and Washington.

The DeVoses will give the Kennedy Center $500,000 in each of the next five years and set up a $20 million endowment that will pay the center about $1 million a year. The arts institute has been renamed the DeVos Institute of Arts Management.

“We believe every city should have a vibrant arts and culture environment,” Betsy DeVos, 52, said in an interview. “We can’t think of a better way to have a positive impact and make that happen.”

Amway, based in Ada, Michigan, is one of the world’s largest direct-selling companies.

Center Chairman

Betsy DeVos, a Kennedy Center board member for six years, said the donation was the result of Kaiser’s passion for educating arts leaders. The couple invests primarily in private companies, according to Betsy DeVos, former chairman of Michigan’s Republican Party.

David M. Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group, officially took over as Kennedy Center chairman today, succeeding Blackstone Group LP Chief Executive Stephen Schwarzman. The center also announced that Kaiser will stay on as president until 2014, when he will become head of the DeVos Institute.

Asked how he manages his own time, Kaiser said, “I’ve got a great staff and a very active BlackBerry.”

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