Buc-ee’s Creator Giving $50 Million For Hospitality Entrepreneurship Program At Texas A&M

The Texas A&M University System News Release image header. Office of Marketing Communications. 979-458-6023

 The Aplin Center will be a unique experiential educational facility merging two iconic Texas brands. 

 BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, June 1, 2022 – 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.

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, Texas two years after commencement. He built the iconic, multi-million-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.”

Aplin’s tenacious work ethic isn’t just reserved for his business: He 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.

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

“Beaver is a tremendous asset to The Association’s board and to the worldwide Aggie Network,” Garner said. “Everything he does is top of its class, and I know the Aplin Center will be as well. This unprecedented gift is further testament to his deep love and affinity for Texas A&M and Texas Aggies.”

The former Brazosport Independent School District board president has received many accolades from his alma mater, including Outstanding Alumnus of the College of Architecture and the M.B. 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 McLean Leadership in Business Award for his “inspiring entrepreneurship and business leadership and commitment to serve the critical needs in the communities he serves.”

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 marks the 40th anniversary of Aplin opening the first Buc-ee’s. His business has expanded into five other states and development is under way on another five.

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

“It was pervasive 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’ve gotta stay Beaver. I’ve gotta stay Buc-ee’s. I’ve gotta stay Aggie and I’ve gotta stay who I am.”


About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $7.2 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 152,000 students and makes more than 24 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help drive the state’s economy.

Contact: Laylan Copelin
Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6425
(512) 289-2782 cell
lcopelin@tamus.edu

 No Tuition Increase for 11 Universities in Texas A&M System

The Texas A&M University System News Release image header. Office of Marketing Communications. 979-458-6023

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The Texas A&M University System’s Board of Regents will not increase tuition for Fall 2022, Chairman of the Board Tim Leach said today.

“The Board is very focused on making a college education affordable for all Texans and pledges to make accessibility and fairness our highest priority,” Chairman Leach said.

The decision impacts all 11 universities in the Texas A&M System.

“We recognize there is inflation for running universities, but there is inflation on families and students as well,” said Chancellor John Sharp. “We’ve decided to manage our costs rather than raise tuition.”

Chancellor Sharp credited the A&M System’s ability to manage its costs to the state’s elected officials who appropriated more money for higher education last year as well as the A&M System’s conservative fiscal management.

The Consumer Price Index peaked at 8.5 percent for the year ending in March 2022, the largest 12-month advance since December 1981, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Annual inflation rate slowed to 8.3 percent in April, but some economic sectors continued to see higher increases than the overall inflation rate. In April, energy prices were up 30.3%, food at 9.4%, new vehicles at 13.2% and shelter at 5.1%.


About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $7.2 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 152,000 students and makes more than 24 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help drive the state’s economy.

Contact: Laylan Copelin
Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6425
(512) 289-2782 cell
lcopelin@tamus.edu

5G Research Testbed at RELLIS Opens for Business of Innovation

The Texas A&M University System News Release image header. Office of Marketing Communications. 979-458-6023
Experts Demonstrate How Testbed Will Enhance a Variety of Research Areas.

BRYAN-COLLEGE STATION, Texas — 5G is likely to improve your life even if you don’t binge-watch videos on your smartphone.

The Texas A&M University System on Thursday opened one of the nation’s largest 5G research testbeds on its RELLIS Campus. About 100 industry and government leaders were there to learn how 5G is poised to enhance daily life in countless ways.

Video footage from the event available here:
https://vimeo.com/714144922
Photos from the event available here:
https://tamus.photoshelter.com/gallery/RELLIS-5G-Testbed-Launch/G0000hGqcAiAB1Jg

A series of demonstrations by experts from Texas A&M and AT&T showed how 5G can help power a wide range of innovations:

  • Food prices could drop as crop yields grow and costs are trimmed through use of data-gathering drones, deep-learning algorithms and robotic farming practices.
  • Emergency health care could improve as paramedics at a scene continuously stream and share video and vitals to consult with ER doctors.
  • Veterinarians could use similar techniques to inform the triage and treatment of livestock and pets after natural disasters.
  • Businesses could address staffing challenges using immersive, remote forms of augmented-reality training, collaboration and management.
  • Soldiers and field commanders could gain advantage over adversaries by using lighter, faster, smarter, nimbler and more resilient communication systems.

“And we are just getting started,” said John Sharp, chancellor of The Texas A&M University System. “We’ve built RELLIS to tackle the world’s toughest challenges. This giant 5G testbed extends the horizon for university researchers, government and industry.”

The term 5G is shorthand for the fifth generation of wireless network. It is the first generation of wireless to rival wired network quality in reliability, consistency, data capacity, ultra-fast peak speeds and ultra-low latency. (Latency is the time from initiation to completion of an action.)

AT&T worked with RELLIS and the System on the new testbed’s installation. One mile of contiguous area just opened for testing research projects. An additional 1.5 miles will be opened by the end of this year.

Chancellor Sharp christened one of the 5G towers with champagne after speaking at the gathering.

Sarita Rao, AT&T senior vice president for integrated and partner solutions, also spoke.

“Texas A&M is one of the premier research entities in the world, fulfilling its mission across a wide range of industries and public service areas,” Rao said. “AT&T believes it has a key role in innovation, and that requires great relationships. We are excited about the possibilities that can come from working with Texas A&M at this one-of-a-kind 5G testbed.”

The testbed adds to the impressive array of new Texas A&M System research facilities at RELLIS. The 2,300-acre campus features a million square feet of labs and offices. With financial support from the State of Texas, the U.S. Army and others, the System has invested $900 million there since 2016. Key research facilities include the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), the Center for Industrial Renewal (CIR), and the George H.W. Bush Combat Development Complex (BCDC).


About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $7.2 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 152,000 students and makes more than 24 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help drive the state’s economy.

Contact: Mike Reilly
Office of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6492
(402) 679–0456 cell
mreilly@tamus.edu

Regents Add Fort Worth Urban Campus to Capital Plan

The Texas A&M University System News Release image header. Office of Marketing Communications. 979-458-6023

FORT WORTH, Texas — The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents on Thursday gave initial approval to $1.5 billion in future projects, including the first two buildings for an urban research campus in downtown Fort Worth.

Meeting in Fort Worth for the special occasion, the Regents approved a new five-year Capital Plan, including $85 million for a Law and Education Building and another $85 million for a Research and Innovation Center in Fort Worth. The campus will be built on several blocks adjacent to the existing Texas A&M University’s School of Law building, which is also scheduled to be replaced in 2024.

The cost of the Law and Education Building, which is scheduled for 2023 construction, will be paid with proceeds from the Public University Fund. The Research and Innovation Center is scheduled to be built in 2024.

To download new architectural renderings or b-roll of the meeting, please go to https://www.tamus.edu/ft-worth-2022/

Texas A&M System officials briefed the Board on the Fort Worth project in front of an audience of dignitaries and reporters. The urban campus was announced in November, but including the buildings in the Capital Plan is the first step toward final Board approval and construction.

“This past decade has seen a historic construction boom for the A&M System around the state,” said Chancellor John Sharp. “But expansion into the nation’s fastest-growing large city is a game-changer for the A&M System, the city of Fort Worth and the whole Metroplex.”

Fort Worth government and business leaders invited the Texas A&M System to create a research campus to spur innovation and business development. Working with Fort Worth leaders, the A&M System has identified programs in emergency response communication, medical technologies, advanced manufacturing, nutrition, biotechnology, medical laboratory science and nursing as areas of interest.

Thursday’s vote comes just days after Texas A&M University’s College of Engineering announced its intention to offer the first two years of engineering courses at Tarrant College. Students at the Engineering Academy would be co-enrolled in Tarrant County College and Texas A&M. They would take basic courses from Tarrant College faculty while A&M professors would teach the engineering courses. The students then would transfer to the College Station campus to complete their bachelor’s degree.

The Fort Worth project is part of a 5-year, $4.2 billion Capital Plan that includes $2.7 billion of projects that already are in design or construction, plus the $1.5 billion of newly proposed projects.

Other new proposed projects at Texas A&M University include:

  • An $118 million addition to the Clinical Veterinary Teaching & Research Complex, including almost $70 million from PUF proceeds;
  • $175 million for a Visualization, Fine and Performing Arts Building;
  • $40 million for Phase II of The Gardens at Texas A&M University;
  • $75 million for an Aggie Band Residence Hall;
  • $100 million Museum of Natural History.

Other significant proposed projects include:

  • $370 million for new Austin headquarters and State Emergency Operations Center for the Texas Division of Emergency Management;
  • $110 million Convocation Center at Tarleton State University;
  • $58 million for a new event center at A&M-Commerce;
  • $20 million for an addition to the Nursing Education & Research Center in McAllen;
  • $15 million to finish out the EnMed Discovery Tower Labs & Offices in Houston;
  • $11.5 million for a Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Hospital in Galveston;
  • $20 million for an addition to the Arts and Media Building at A&M-Corpus Christi;
  • $10.8 million to expand the Western Hemisphere Trade Center at A&M-International in Laredo;
  • $9.4 million for addition to Fine and Performing Arts at A&M-International;
  • $10 million for a research annex at A&M-Central Texas, including $5 million from PUF proceeds.
  • $35 million for Phase III of students housing at A&M-San Antonio;
  • $30 million for the Amarillo Research Extension Center at Canyon, including $20 million from PUF proceeds.

In other business, the Board of Regens approved an operating budget of $7.2 billion, $2.4 billion less than the current operating budget because of a decrease in COVID-19 federal dollars flowing through Texas Division of Emergency Management to other Texas entities.

The Board also authorized Texas A&M University President M. Katherine Banks to negotiate and execute a ground lease for construction of up to two research and educational buildings on the new TMC3 campus in Houston.

In 2020, the Texas A&M Health Science Center, the Texas Medical Center, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and the MD Anderson Cancer Center agreed to construct a Collaborative Research Building to anchor the new biomedical research campus. That building is under construction.


About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $7.2 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 152,000 students and makes more than 24 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help drive the state’s economy.

Contact: Mike Reilly
Office of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6492
(402) 679–0456 cell
mreilly@tamus.edu

Texas A&M-Kingsville Alumnus, Robert Vela Jr., Named President

The Texas A&M University System News Release image header. Office of Marketing Communications. 979-458-6023

FORT WORTH, Texas — The Texas A&M University System Board of Regents today confirmed Dr. Robert H. Vela Jr. as the 21st President of Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

Vela is a 1994 graduate of Texas A&M University-Kingsville and a holder of two graduate degrees from that institution. He was named a Distinguished Alumni of Texas A&M University-Kingsville in 2015.

He is coming from San Antonio College, where as President he led that school to the 2021 Aspen Prize Winner for Community College Excellence,

“President Vela has demonstrated he is an academic leader who can turn around an institution,” said Chancellor John Sharp. “He also has a deep, abiding love for his alma mater. He will be a great asset.”

Vela has had a lengthy academic career that included leadership roles at Coastal Bend College, A&M-Kingsville, and San Jacinto College before he joined San Antonio College in 2008 as Dean of Student Affairs. He became President in 2014.

He is also President of the National Community College Hispanic Council and served on the Board of Directors for the American Association of Community Colleges.

Vela succeeds Dr. Mark Hussey, who resigned in December to return to Texas A&M University where he has held multiple leadership roles.  Hussey is serving as Acting Vice Chancellor and Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences until that position is filled. At that time, Hussey will become director of the Borlaug Institute.


About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $9.6 billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, a comprehensive health science center, eight state agencies, and the RELLIS Campus, the Texas A&M System educates more than 152,000 students and makes more than 24 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development expenditures exceed $1 billion and help drive the state’s economy.

Contact: Laylan Copelin
Vice Chancellor of Marketing and Communications
(979) 458-6425
(512) 289-2782 cell
lcopelin@tamus.edu