College Station: Buc-ee’s Creator Giving $50 Million for Entrepreneurship Facility at Texas A&M
Feature Photo: A view of a building at the Texas A&M University campus. Image: Texas A&M University/Facebook
College Station (Brazos County) — Texas A&M University has announced that former student Arch “Beaver” Aplin III — one of the university’s most successful entrepreneurs — is contributing $50 million toward establishing an academic center that will serve as an immersive learning laboratory for students.
“When Beaver Aplin does something, it’s never halfway!” said Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp. “The love he has and shows for Texas A&M and Aggies is inspirational and appreciated. This is an awesome gift and will position Texas A&M to become the top hospitality program in the nation.”
The Aplin Center will offer a transformational student experience through new university programs in hospitality, retail studies and food product development involving innovative degree programs including viticulture, fermentation processes, coffee, and food science. The facility also will house product development laboratories and food tasting centers which can be utilized in partnership with related industries.
Arch “Beaver” Aplin III. Image: Jeff Wilson/Texas Monthly
The center will include outdoor and indoor student recreational space, as well as retail and food service areas managed by students and faculty through the educational programs.
The Aplin Center will host corporate training and recruiting programs, along with professional development opportunities. Workforce training based on industry needs will be a key component of the center.
Primary academic partners will be the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Mays Business School, although other academic units will be involved in specialty projects.
Texas A&M President Dr. M. Katherine Banks said the Aplin Center will allow for more entrepreneurial activities for students across disciplines.
“Arch ‘Beaver’ Aplin is a true visionary and one of the most creative entrepreneurs I have known,” Banks said. “He remains connected to his university, speaking to many students who share his passion for business and product development. Through this generous gift, he is creating a living, learning laboratory that will provide transformational opportunities for our students. The Aplin Center will positively impact Aggies for generations to come.”
Aplin said Banks’ vision of a world-class hospitality entrepreneurship program is “just what Texas A&M needs and I’m proud to have an opportunity to be involved.”
The 1980 graduate, who earned a construction science degree from A&M, opened his first Buc-ee’s in Lake Jackson two years after commencement. He built the iconic, multimillion dollar business on several promises: pristine restrooms, scores of fuel pumps, a vast selection of food and consumer items, and well-paid employees.
“We want to create a learning, gathering space on the A&M campus that exemplifies hospitality,” Aplin said. “A place where people come together. A place
where the Aggie culture can thrive – a happy place.”
While the Buc-ee’s empire initially stood out from its competition based on clean bathrooms, quirky advertising and a strong brand, it grew into a powerhouse by consistently applying excellent customer service with the Buc-ee’s brand. His mantra: “Exceed customers’ expectations.”
His stores offer health insurance to employees and pay more than twice the amount of minimum wage, both evidence of a healthy business approach that further pushes Buc-ee’s into the convenience store stratosphere.
Aplin’s $50 million contribution to build the center highlighting his namesake is one of the largest gifts A&M has received from a single donor.
The center, which will highlight co-developed products, will be built across the street from the Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center at the intersection of Wellborn Road and the pedestrian tunnel that functions as the main foot and automobile traffic corridor on campus, in the shadow of Kyle Field.
July 28 will mark the 40th anniversary of Aplin opening the first Buc-ee’s. His business has expanded into five other states and development is under way in another five.
Art Benavidez (Construction News Reporter, Central Texas) is a seasoned journalist with over 15-years of experience in writing breaking news and in-depth features at the local level. He honed his research and reporting skills in newspapers and magazines throughout South and West Texas along with expertise in crafting digital content as Managing Editor of New Image Marketing Research Corporation. Benevidez is a Texas native and graduate of UT-RGV.