CHICAGO, Ga. -- The University of Vienna's connections to the University of Chicago provided Carl Findley III a rare opportunity recently.
Findley, a 1995 Deerfield-Windsor School graduate, was one of 24 scholars from throughout the world invited to speak by the Modern Austrian Literature and Culture Association at its three-day conference on Austrian literature held at the University of Vienna.
According to the University of Vienna's website, the school was founded in 1365 and is the oldest university in the German-speaking world and one of the largest in central Europe. It currently boasts about 86,000 students who are enrolled in 180 courses.
Findley, the oldest son of dentist Dr. Carl Jr. and Judy Findley, captured two $1,000 grants as a result of his 45-minute speech. The grants were from the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York and the University of Chicago's John U. Nef Lecture grant.
"I talked about the influence of Plato and Ovid on this Austrian novelist named Robert Musil," said Findley, 34, a University of Chicago professor who teaches undergraduate students literature and academic writing. "I talked how he used both Plato and Ovid and their concept of love and how he used it to address the failures of love. He wrote during World War I and thought we could learn a lot about love by returning to these ancient authors and how we could build a better society. Not many writers of his time were as engaged in Roman and Greek literature as he was. He was very unique in that sense."
Findley's wife of three years, Jennifer, attended the conference with him. The two met while taking a master's class in Austrian history together at the University of Chicago and married a year later. Jennifer Findley teaches at Triton College, a two-year college in Chicago.
"He's a fantastic public speaker," said Jennifer Findley of her husband. "He's just brilliant. He likes to do a lot of play on words and has very smart ways of interpreting things. It was a really great experience. ... He was quite the rage."
After graduating from Deerfield, Carl Findley III followed the encouragement of his junior year English teacher, Charles Hawkins, to attend Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. The school features famous graduates Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Civil War hero Joshua Chamberlain. After 24 major battles and six serious wounds, the Bowdoin College graduate and professor ended the war as a major general and was chosen to receive the Confederate surrender at Appomattox. Chamberlain was portrayed in the movies "Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals" by actor Jeff Daniels.
Findley earned a double major in philosophy and Russian from Bowdoin as part of its class of 1999. He then earned his master's in comparative literature from the University of Chicago in 2004. Findley said he studied 15 classic texts from ancient times to modern.
"It begins with Greek drama and tragedy to 20th century authors," he said. "It started with Sophocles and Aristotle (and included) Dostoevsky, Herman Melville and Emerson. The master's exam was a three-day exam where you're tested on all these books."
In addition to his college teaching at the University of Chicago, Findley's finishing up on his doctorate in comparative literature of Russian, German and American literature at the school. To earn his Ph.D., Findley's must submit a 250-page manuscript.
"I'm writing on the history of innocence in the Christian tradition and in German, Russian, Spanish and American novels," he said.
In January, Findley said he will be leaving the University of Chicago -- with the school's blessing -- and will teach at another top American research institution.
"Once you go through your training and you have your Ph.D., they want to send you off to a different university and this is very usual," he said. "They want to spread the way they taught you to different universities. I'll teach comparative literature and writing at one of these universities. I'm going to look in the South hopefully and elsewhere. I'll know in January where (I'll be teaching). I'd like to find someplace new because I think it will help my writing. I'm hoping to publish a novel within a couple of years. I don't want to just be a university professor, I want to be a writer as well."
Findley's younger brother, Aaron, also lives in Chicago. The 2002 Deerfield graduate is pursuing a master's in history at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Albany attorney John Moorhead attended Deerfield with Carl Findley III and thinks a great deal of him. The two competed on Deerfield's soccer team together.
"Carl was one of those guys you would always remember because he always took his studies seriously," said Moorhead, who graduated from Deerfield in 1997. "He bounded (when he ran), he could move. I played soccer with him for three years. It was just amazing to watch him run. Carl's always held very deep Christian beliefs.
"Carl has always been the type of guy you would hope to be," he added. "He's very intelligent, very athletic and very kind. As far as having a passionate drive for intellectual matters, he certainly has that and the expansion of thought."
Moorhead, who practices business law with his father, Bill, also noted that Findley cherishes his Southwest Georgia upbringing.
"He's not an intellectual that moves away and looks down upon his roots," he said. "He instead looks up to his roots and is proud to be from Southwest Georgia."
Findley said he still returns to the Albany area about three times a year to hunt during quail season at his parents' Whisperwood Plantation.
"My dad always teases me that I went to Chicago to find a Southerner," said Jennifer Findley, who hails from San Diego but has Southern ties with her father from Alabama. "He's absolutely charming. He gets up, puts on his tie or bow tie and goes to work. He has the professorial aesthetics."