Kent State alumni reunite in the Middle East

Gustavo Stille (left), the Alumni Association’s associate director of international alumni relations, takes a tour of the Cleveland Clinic in Abu Dhabi.

Krista Renaldo

Gustavo Stille, Kent State Alumni Association’s associate director of international alumni relations, traveled to the Middle East earlier this month to host reunions and build relationships with international alumni.

While on the trip, Stille hosted alumni reunions in Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Oman. This was an effort to strengthen the partnerships and relationships between Kent State and its international alumni.

“That’s also the purpose of the trip: to meet with people face-to-face and just understand a little bit more. What is the glue that binds them together? What type of relationship they envision themselves having with Kent and what is it that they would like to do?” Stille said.

“The purpose of the meeting was to have a connection between alumni from Kent State University with the university and [to] reach the news of each other,” Ahmed Al-Abri, an international alum from Oman, said via email to Stille.

This trip was also significant because the Middle East, specifically, is home to many Kent State alumni. 

“We have a lot of alumni from Saudi Arabia. We have alumni spread out in different cities like in Dubai, also in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. We have alumni in Kuwait (and) in Lebanon, but even if you go further north, Turkey,” Stille said.

It also signified the first time Kent State hosted an alumni reunion in Oman and was the first American university to do so, according to the Alumni Association.

While in Abu Dhabi, Stille got a tour of a multi-billion dollar Cleveland Clinic. In comparison to the Cleveland Clinics in the United States that are three to four hundred million dollars, this Cleveland Clinic may not be bigger necessarily in size but in grandeur. While on the tour, Stille met a Kent alum who runs the entire HVAC system for the hospital, which is important especially in the middle of the desert.

“It’s the largest steel structure building in the United Arab Emirates and he is responsible for all of the HVAC systems, the heating, ventilation, air conditioning. If you think about a four billion dollar, twenty-one floor building in the middle of the desert, HVAC systems are kind of a big deal,” Stille said.

Among the alumni in Abu Dhabi, many of them were medical professionals who also worked at the hospital.

While Stille was in Jordan, he met up with seven alumni whose professions ranged from translation to nursing and computer science. Stille also met a man who was at Kent State during the May 4 shootings in 1970 and also met the first person in Jordan to hold a Ph.D. in the translation field.

“That’s something to be proud of and these are stories that we need to share and let them know how they do make us proud,” Stille said. “Celebrating them is a big piece but also making sure that they always have (a way) to stay connected with (Kent State), in case they do want to continue to develop or stay involved with us in any way.”

Some alumni even reached out to Stille and expressed how happy they were to have been involved in this year’s reunions.

“From the Kent State reunion, I got the chance to meet with my fellow alumni friends that, to be honest, we haven’t been in touch for a while, so the reunion refreshed our memories of those old good days and allowed us to exchange our experiences and information regarding career development,” wrote Sabra Al Aamri, an international alum.

“I had a good time and enjoyed the dinner with my friends. During that moment, I felt like the same days when I was abroad,” Al-Abri wrote.

Stille’s response to the outcome of the events was nothing but positive, and he encourages more of these trips in the future.

“I don’t see this going away anytime soon. Hopefully, we can continue to do more of this and give these alumni groups strength and independence to host events on their own too,” he said. “All in all, it was a very positive outreach effort for us and that directly supports one of the university’s strategic pillars of global competitiveness and thus further the global reach of Kent State.”

Krista Renaldo is the homecoming, alumni affairs, and fundraising reporter. Contact her at [email protected].