Greg Sadler has posted a wonderful and very interesting video on the story of the development of his philosophical interests and commitments. Greg took his Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University Carbondale a few years before I arrived on the scene and so I did not know him personally while there, however his philosophical interests and how they developed is an interesting story by his account as seen in the video.
Aside discovering that we know many of the same people which is not a surprise, more interestingly perhaps is that the soil in which we both were nourished is pretty much the same - especially the breadth and depth, as well as rigor, of the preliminary and comprehensive exams - which I hear are being eliminated at many departments. For us it was a requirement as it weeded out those who couldn't cut mustard. I also feel that Greg and I have similar teaching styles which I am assuming comes from our mutual SIUC training.
Incidentally Greg divulges how he came to be interested in Hegel - and well, its just overall a very interesting video to watch (about twenty some minutes; definitely worth it ).
One thing while on my mind: while in graduate school I attended a seminar of Ph.D.s (tenured professors I should say) - a panel - who were discussing their careers and then taking questions from the audience of graduate students who had come to see them and ask questions. When a question came up from a graduate student as to how the dissertation topic/subject that one chooses to cover might influence the rest of one's career, it was interesting to see that half of the professors did not even remember the exact thesis of their dissertation but rather just had only a vague idea of the topic they wrote on. The general consensus was that it is indeed very possible to move away from your dissertation topic in terms of what you end up publishing about later on in your career. Your current work might be related to it, but it is not going to be the same.
I mention this because Greg's dissertation wasn't about Hegel exclusively but his "half-hour Hegel" videos have become a gold-standard scholarly source for Hegel studies and lead one to think that that was what he spent the 300-400 pages writing about.
Anyway, I was thinking about this while reflecting how, despite my dissertation covering mainly C.S. Peirce (also Heidegger and Schelling) that that is not where I remained and instead went other directions. The connection is there - from Schelling to my current research interests in Hegel - but I never foresaw going there, especially because Peirce despised Hegel and Schelling was quite resentful of him.
Hegel is probably the most important philosopher for contemporary philosophy, eclipsing Schelling who had been popular up until only a few years ago. In fact, I believe that Hegel has more influence over contemporary speculative philosophy than does either Schelling or Heidegger, and that's saying alot.