The founder of Lone Star State’s favorite rest stop/gas station/car wash/cultural beacon has just made a Texas-sized investment in a major state university.
Buc-ee’s mastermind Arch “Beaver” Aplin III will commit $50 million toward establishing a Texas A&M University academic center that will serve as an immersive learning laboratory, the school announced.
Dubbed the Aplin Center (Aplin graduated from A&M in 1980), the hub will offer new university programs in hospitality, retail studies, and food product development through degree programs including viticulture, fermentation processes, coffee, and food science.
This new facility also will house product development laboratories and food tasting centers that can be utilized in partnership with related industries, according to a press release. Retail and food services areas will be managed by students and faculty. Students can also expect indoor and outdoor recreational spaces.
The center will be built across the street from the Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center near Wellborn Road and Kyle Field.
Aplin’s $50 million commitment marks one of the largest single donations in Texas A&M history. “Arch ‘Beaver’ Aplin is a true visionary and one of the most creative entrepreneurs I have known,” said school president Dr. M. Katherine Banks in a statement. “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.”
Buc-ee’s founder, in turn, noted that 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.”
Two years after graduation, Aplin opened his first Buc-ee’s in 1982 in Lake Jackson. His beaver empire has since expanded into five other states, with development underway in another five. Aplin’s brand hallmarks include pristine restrooms, endless fuel pumps, a vast selection of food and consumer items.
Besides its reputation as a cult and customer favorite, Buc-ee’s offers health insurance to employees and pays more than twice the amount of minimum wage. Earlier this year, the convenience store-rest stop hybrid received nationwide attention on CBS Sunday Morning. July 28 marks Buc-ee’s 40th anniversary.
“When Beaver Aplin does something, it’s never halfway,” said A&M System chancellor John Sharp in a statement. “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.”
An Aggie through and through, Aplin, who serves on myriad boards and is also chairman of Texas Parks and Wildlife, once preached the College Station gospel during a lecture in 2012, telling the class, “I have to remember — I’ve gotta stay Beaver. I’ve gotta stay Buc-ee’s. I’ve gotta stay Aggie and I’ve gotta stay who I am.”
This article originally ran on CultureMap.