Buc-ee’s founder building again: Former student donates $50M to create Texas A&M academic center

Center will have rec spaces, retail food, service areas -- and we bet: very clean bathrooms

Arch "Beaver" Aplin III (Texas State Directory)

HOUSTON – Texas A&M University announced last week that former student Arch “Beaver” Aplin III -- founder of Buc-ee’s -- 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,” Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp is quoted as saying via a news release. “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 school said 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.

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, according to the news release.

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.

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.”

The 1980 graduate, who earned a construction science degree from A&M, opened his first Buc-ee’s in Lake Jackson, Texas two years after commencement. July 28 marks the 40th anniversary of Aplin opening the first Buc-ee’s. His business has expanded into five other states and development is underway on another five.

“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.”

Aplin serves as chairman of Texas Parks and Wildlife, is on the ERCOT Board Selection Committee, is a lifetime member of both the Coastal Conservation Association and the 100 Club of Brazoria County, and is on the Lieutenant Governor’s Transportation Advisory Board and the Board of Directors of The Association of Former Students.

About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.