President-elect Trump announced Wednesday that he plans to nominate school choice activist Betsy DeVos to serve as Secretary of Education. The Detroit News described DeVos as a "GOP mega donor," though it noted that she and her husband did not donate directly to the president-elect during his campaign. DeVos and Trump share something in common, though: business family background. DeVos is the daughter of successful businessman Edgar D. Prince.
Prince was known in his native Holland, Michigan and throughout the state for his religiousness, business successes, and wealth. His 1995 obituary in Plastics News described Prince as an engineer who created a small tooling company that he turned into "one of the country's largest suppliers of trim for automotive uses." That company, Prince Corporation, was sold to Johnson Controls, Inc. in 1996 for $1.35 billion.
Until his death, Prince was closely involved with the Family Research Council, an organization known for its anti-choice and anti-LGBT stances. He also funded a film series about Christianity for Focus on the Family, which the Human Rights Council described as "one of the most well funded anti-LGBTQ organizations in America that "invest[s] in public education campaigns against LGBTQ equality, while their related organization CitizenLink supports radical anti-LGBTQ candidates who work against basic civil rights and legal protections." As Forbes noted, Edgar's wife, Elsa Prince Broekhuizen, donated $450,000 in an attempt to prevent gay marriage from becoming legalized in California in 2008.
Since the Department of Education is responsible for supporting LGBT students as well as straight and cisgender ones, DeVos' family history is concerning. Devos is married to Dick DeVos. His brother, Douglas, started the Douglas & Maria Devos Foundation, which donated $500,000 to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), an anti-gay marriage group, in 2009, as reported by ABC News.
Fellow Holland, Michigan native Joe Filcik of the Observer (which is owned by Donald Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner) described Prince as a "deeply religious business leader," adding that he was beloved by the community:
In a church that celebrated the iconoclasm, Mr. Prince’s generosity gave him Santa Claus like status. His donations funded a downtown revitalization in Holland that included the technological marvel of a snowmelt system that spares the Main Street in downtown from snow plows even during blizzards. His profit sharing policies in the 90’s were way more important than any Federal policy in Holland, MI.
That Prince had that "Santa Clause like status" in groups that cared about LGBT rights is less certain.