Texas A&M Student Surprises Father With Replacement Aggie Ring
Although there’s a 35-year gap between their graduating classes at Texas A&M University, Kenneth “Kip” Martin and his daughter Vivian received Aggie rings on the same day this month. That’s because Vivian surprised the 1986 alum with a ring to replace the one he lost two decades ago.
In a video posted on Twitter, Kip — owner of Pepe’s Mexican Café in Bryan — thought he was presenting Vivian with her ring, but was actually holding his own.
“It’s pretty obvious from the video that I never saw it coming,” Kip said, noting viewers can see him slipping his ring on Vivian’s finger out of total confusion. “Even when the ring was way too big for her, I was like, ‘Ha, you ordered your ring too big!'”
Turns out Vivian, who is Class of 2021, had this moment planned from the day she learned of her acceptance into Texas A&M. She conspired with her sisters Lianne and Melanie, their grandmother Diane Martin, and Kip’s girlfriend Marilyn Maxwell, to buy a replacement ring and present it at the same time her father was to present hers.
With Ring Day cancelled due to the pandemic, Vivian, a biomedical engineering major, said her aunt Mindy Douglas and cousin Hunter Douglas planned a family ring ceremony that turned out to be a great setting for her dad’s surprise.
“I was very nervous moments leading up to the surprise because I knew it would be a big deal for him and I wanted it to go perfectly,” Vivian said. “To be able to give him a tangible, beautiful daily reminder of the love we all have for him is very special. The ring symbolizes hard work and sacrifice, but for us, and many other generational Aggies, it also symbolizes a family bond.”
To say that maroon blood runs deep in the Martin family is an understatement – Kip’s two brothers, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, four nephews, two nieces, two uncles, two cousins and two out of his three children are all Aggies.
Kip graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business analysis and in 2014 assumed operations of Pepe’s Mexican Café from his father, Ken Martin, who opened it in 1969 and also owned Fort Shiloh and Ken Martin’s Steakhouse, both of which are now closed.
The ring delivery was a bright spot in the lives of the Martin family as they — like many business owners across the country — are suffering through a financial crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said sales at Pepe’s are down 10-15 percent due to the pandemic, but he’s been able to keep all of his team members employed. If not for the Paycheck Protection Loan he received from the U.S. Small Business Association, “we’d almost certainly be out of business,” he said. The loss in sales came on the heels of a 20-25 percent dip in revenue caused by construction on College Avenue, where the business is located.
The dining room remains closed, and Kip said he feels fortunate to have already had a drive-thru so they could keep feeding customers safely.
“This week we are adding a big tent in the parking lot to provide sun- and rain protection to the picnic tables outside,” he said, adding there are no plans to close the restaurant.
“I love my job,” he said. “Dad, and now I, always took pride in being able to provide the tastiest food, in the most generous portions, for the least amount of money anywhere is BCS. When I have customers say, ‘I would have starved in college if you guys hadn’t been here,’ or, ‘I remember my parents bringing me here as a kid, and now my kids are bringing their kids here,’ that makes it all so rewarding.”
As for Vivian, her career will move away from Tex-Mex, but like her dad, she hopes to serve people.
“The plan is to work in the cardiac device industry as a biomedical engineer before I go to medical school and participate in Doctors Without Borders,” she said, adding she loves her university and has great hopes for its future.
“I want all Aggies, especially underrepresented Aggies, to feel a sense of belonging and respect here,” she said. “May we all continue working toward equity and treating others with compassion.”
Kip said the love shown by his family through the ring surprise is something he’ll never forget and left him uncharacteristically speechless. “If nothing else good ever happens to me for the rest of my life, I’ll feel like I’ve had my share,” he said.