Buc-ee creator donates $50 million for hospitality entrepreneurship program at Texas A&M

portrait of Arch

Arch “Beaver” Aplin III.


Jeff Wilson/Texas Monthly

Texas A&M University has announced that alumnus Arch “Beaver” Aplin III – one of the university’s most successful entrepreneurs – is contributing $50 million towards the creation of a university center that will serve as a immersive learning lab for students.

“When Beaver Aplin does something, it’s never halfway!” said John Sharp, system chancellor of Texas A&M University. “The love he has and shows for Texas A&M and the Aggies is inspiring and appreciated. This is a great gift and will position Texas A&M to be the top hospitality program in the nation.

The Aplin Center will provide a transformational student experience through new academic programs in hospitality, retail studies and food product development involving innovative degree programs including viticulture, fermentation processes, coffee and in food science. The facility will also house product development labs and food tasting centers that can be used in partnership with related industries.

The center will include outdoor and indoor recreational spaces for students, as well as retail and dining areas run by students and faculty as part of educational programs.

The Aplin Center will host corporate training and recruitment programs, as well as professional development opportunities. Workforce training based on industry needs will be a key component of the centre.

The main academic partners will be the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Mays Business School, although other academic units will be involved in specialist projects.

Texas A&M President Dr. M. Katherine Banks said the Aplin Center will enable more entrepreneurial activities for students of all disciplines.

“Arch ‘Beaver’ Aplin is a true visionary and one of the most creative entrepreneurs I’ve ever known,” Banks said. “He stays connected to his university, reaching out to many students who share his passion for business and product development. With this generous donation, he is creating a living learning laboratory that will provide transformative opportunities for our students. The Aplin Center will have a positive impact on the Aggies for generations to come. »

Aplin said Banks’ vision for a world-class hospitality entrepreneurship program is “exactly what Texas A&M needs and I’m proud to have the opportunity to be involved.”

The 1980 graduate, who earned a degree in construction science from A&M, opened his first Buc-ee in Lake Jackson, Texas, two years after debuting. He built the iconic multimillion-dollar company on several promises: spotless restrooms, dozens of fuel pumps, a huge selection of food and consumer products, and well-paid employees.

“We want to create a learning and gathering space on the A&M campus that exemplifies hospitality,” Aplin said. “A place where people meet. A place where Aggie culture can flourish – a happy place.

Aplin’s tenacious work ethic isn’t just reserved for his business: He’s president of Texas Parks and Wildlife, sits on the ERCOT board selection committee, is a life member of Coastal Conservation Association and the 100 Club of Brazoria County, and is a member of the Lieutenant Governor’s Transportation Advisory Council and the Alumni Association Board of Directors.

Porter S. Garner III ’79, President and CEO of the Association, praised Aplin as a genuine and humble leader who cares deeply for others.

“Beaver is a tremendous asset to the Association’s Board of Directors and to the Aggie Global Network,” said Garner. “Everything he does is best in class, and I know the Aplin Center will be too. This unprecedented gift is a testament to his deep love and affinity for Texas A&M and Texas Aggies.

The former chairman of the Brazosport Independent School District Board of Trustees received numerous honors from his alma mater, including Outstanding Alumnus of the College of Architecture and the MB Zale Visionary Merchant Award from the Texas A&M Center for Retailing Studies. This fall, Aplin will be honored by the Mosbacher Institute at the Bush School of Government and Public Service with the McLane Leadership in Business Award for his “inspirational entrepreneurial spirit and business leadership and commitment to addressing critical community needs.” which it serves”.

While the Buc-ee’s empire initially stood out from its competition with clean bathrooms, original advertising and a strong brand, it has become a powerhouse by consistently applying excellent customer service with the Buc-ee’s brand. His mantra: Exceed customer expectations.

Its stores offer employee health insurance and pay more than double the minimum wage, both evidence of a sound business approach that pushes Buc-ee’s even further into the convenience store stratosphere.

Aplin’s $50 million contribution to build the center showcasing its namesake is one of the biggest gifts A&M has received from a single donor.

The center, which will showcase co-developed products, will be built across from the Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center at the intersection of Wellborn Road and the pedestrian tunnel that serves as the main pedestrian and vehicular traffic corridor on campus, in the shadow of Kyle Field.

July 28 marks the 40th anniversary of Aplin’s opening of the first Buc-ee’s. His business has expanded to five more states, and development is underway in five more.

Aplin regularly returns to his alma mater to talk to students. While at Mays Business School for a lecture in 2012, Aplin read a letter written by a Florida Gators football fan following a visit to College Station. He shared how the fan experienced true friendliness and hospitality during his stay.

“It was ubiquitous and natural. It was culture,” Aplin told the class, adding that he returns to the letter for inspiration during pivotal moments at work. “I have to remember – I have to stay Beaver. I have to stay at Buc-ee’s. I have to stay Aggie and I have to stay who I am.

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