On October 26, the Mosbacher Institute of Trade, Economics, and Public Policy at the Bush School of Government and Public Service awarded Arch “Beaver” Aplin III, founder of Buc-ee’s, the 2022 McLane Leadership in Business Award in front of the sizable crowd who came out to hear him at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center. The annual award recognizes a prominent business leader for outstanding contributions in business, public service, or community service at the national level. Through a moderated discussion led by the Mosbacher Institute’s director, Raymond Robertson, Aplin shared his story of going from an avid Dixie Chicken fan and Texas A&M graduate to the creator and owner of the successful Buc-ee’s business phenomenon respected and enjoyed by so many Americans today.

Aplin described how after graduating from Texas A&M University in 1980 with a construction science degree and working in the construction business for a short time, he encountered an epiphany moment and decided to tap into his entrepreneurial spirit by opening a convenience store. Aplin stated it was an idea that came to him while working at his grandfather’s small general store in Louisiana. Although he always had the drive to run the best convenience store out there, Aplin reflected on the initial challenges he faced as a new business owner. His first 3,000 square-foot Buc-ee’s store, named after his hunting Labrador “Buck,” opened not too far from his hometown of Lake Jackson, Texas. Aplin said the business took some time to gain traction, but with patience, dedication, and the mantra “to just try to do the right thing every day,” his first few stores were successful. He is now working on a new 74,000-square-foot location opening soon in Tennessee. His entrepreneurial endeavors don’t stop with Buc-ee’s—he recently awarded Texas A&M a $50 million gift to assist in developing a new hospitality-focused academic center on Texas A&M’s campus.

Proud and enthusiastic to be back at A&M, Aplin spent the day visiting the George H. W. Bush Library and chatting with various Bush School students. Aplin expressed his admiration of President George H.W. Bush and his dedication to public service and shared how he treasures being in a phase of life where he has the time to give back and serve others. Aplin has also found a way to give back through his business model by financially supporting non-profits in the local communities around the nation where they operate. Speaking highly of the service-oriented values at Texas A&M and the nation’s entrepreneurial spirit, he advised students and the crowd to pursue opportunity any chance they can, maintaining that the United States is more than open for business. Aplin said, “If you have a passion, chase it. Make a decision, act on it, work hard, and you’ll go far.”

You can view the 2022 McLane Leadership in Business Award program on the Bush School YouTube channel.