‘Canes Family: Father and Son Remain Committed to Alma Mater

‘Canes Family: Father and Son Remain Committed to Alma Mater

Wayne Chaplin, J.D. '82, and David Chaplin, J.D. '13
Wayne Chaplin, J.D. '82, and David Chaplin, J.D. '13
PHOTO BY Jenny Abreu

David Chaplin’s parents never pushed him to attend a particular college or study a specific topic, so he applied to several universities and considered different majors. But as he started his senior year of high school, he remained torn.

His father, Wayne Chaplin, earned his bachelor’s degree in business at the University of Miami and graduated from the University of Miami School of Law in 1982. Wayne would become the CEO of Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, a family-owned enterprise that is the country’s largest wine and spirits distributor. David saw how a mix of business and legal education helped his father steer the multi-billion-dollar company. That convinced David to choose the same educational track: he studied business as an undergraduate, followed by law school.

“My dad set a good example of what you can do and be successful with the background he had,” David said. “It was a good blend. I told myself, ‘If I can arm myself with a similar pedigree, then I feel pretty confident in my skill set.’”

Figuring out where to go was another challenge. David visited Duke, Boston College, Tulane, and other major universities, but he made up his mind when he toured UM’s Coral Gables campus.

“It was a feeling I got when I walked the campus that this was the place for me,” David said.

Once decided, David cruised through his seven years at UM and earned his J.D. in 2013, becoming the latest double ’Cane in the Chaplin family. He went on to join the family business and rose to become Southern Glazer’s chief growth officer, leading its expansion into e-commerce, which has expanded the company’s reach. Now, looking back, father and son each credit their time at UM as foundational to their success.

UM looked a lot different when Wayne started there in 1976. There were fewer buildings, schools, and students, but Wayne said one thing has remained constant: “We had an amazing pool scene.” Despite that continuous distraction, Wayne finished second in his class in business school, his GPA just two-hundredths of a point behind the top student.

What he remembers most, however, is how much he learned and grew in law school. When he started, he was uncomfortable speaking in public, with butterflies always dancing in his stomach. That started changing as he was repeatedly called on by professors who used the Socratic method to engage in intense back-and-forths in class. Then he joined the moot court, forcing Wayne to confront his fears by addressing professors, working attorneys, and sitting judges who oversaw each round of competition.

“You have to become nimble on your feet,” Wayne said. “The law school changed me as a person and a public speaker.”

David underwent a similar transition during his time at Miami Law, but in a different way. He clerked for U.S. Circuit Judge Scott J. Silverman during his 1L summer and then interned at other law firms during his 2L and 3L summers. He credits that real-world experience, combined with the lessons he learned in class, with his ability to take in vast amounts of information, digest it, and determine which parts are most important.

“In the corporate world, it’s easy to put together a 20-, 30-, 40-page PowerPoint deck, but it becomes a lot more difficult to put a 5- to 10-page deck together, to digest what’s important and communicate that out,” he said. “That’s a skill.”

After finishing at the U, David didn’t move straight into the family business. Wayne insisted that each of his three children work elsewhere for a while before coming on board.

David worked at a real estate law firm for two years before joining Southern Glazer’s. Mark Chaplin, another double ’Cane with his undergraduate degree and M.B.A. at UM, worked as a sales representative for Gallo Sales Company before joining Southern Glazer’s. He currently serves as senior vice president of sales and marketing. And Jennifer Chaplin—the lone Chaplin who didn’t attend the University of Miami—graduated from NYU and worked at the William Morris Endeavor talent agency before joining Southern Glazer’s and becoming its vice president of family-owned brands.

David said that outside experience has been invaluable for each of them. “I want to be able to think analytically and add value to a company and not just walk in from getting a degree and thinking I’m going to change the company,” he said. “I wanted to put the work in.”

Wayne said that outside experience has helped ensure the family business will survive long after he retires. “I think we’re in great hands for the future.”

Now working together, Wayne and the rest of the family have continued to support their community and their alma mater. Wayne often does that work with his wife, Arlene, another University of Miami graduate whom he describes as the glue of the family. Wayne co-chaired Momentum, a fundraising drive that raised $22.5 million for the Law School, and then co-chaired Momentum2, which raised an additional $30.5 million. Wayne has served as the chair of the Visiting Committee for Miami Law for over 10 years and is currently a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council.

Wayne and Arlene established the Chaplin Family Scholarship, which awards full tuition for one student every three years. And David recruited some classmates to fund another scholarship in 2018. When asked why they continue donating their time and money to the university, David put it simply: “We’re a Hurricane family.”

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