By Nicole Hennessy
Maj. Gen. Robert Stall, having just returned from a business trip in Abu Dhabi, already had a full day of meetings scheduled. Recently retired after a 36-year career with the U.S. Army Reserve, this trip was not a military mission, but part of his new role as the Cleveland Clinic’s executive director of international relations.
At his retirement ceremony in July, in Fort Jackson, S.C., Stall, a Lakewood resident, posed for photos. Standing straight with his arms at his sides, he smiled, 11 medals and badges dangling from his chest, including his new Distinguished Service Medal.
Beside him stood John Carroll University classmates Bishop Lt. Col. Neal Buckon and Maj. Thomas O’Grady, who is currently running for North Olmsted’s mayoral seat, which he lost to Mayor Kevin Kennedy during the last election.
“It is very sad to be retiring,” Stall said. “It was one of those things where it was time to leave.”
He continued, laughing, “I’m 57 years old, and it certainly doesn’t get any easier to run two miles, do the push-ups and the sit-ups.”
With over 30 major duty assignments under his belt, ranging from training to civil affairs and physiological operations, most recently Stall served in Europe and deployed to Kosovo, Kuwait and Iraq after 9/11.
Interacting with Iraqi locals on a daily basis while handling civil military operations, Stall said he was reminded, as he’d been in the past, that “people are basically good, no matter where they are.”
“The fact that they can’t get along is an age-old dilemma,” he added.
“Whether it’s Sunni or whether it’s Shia; whether it’s Albanians or whether it’s Serbs, these are great people and they are thrust into circumstances that their governments or their leaders put them into, and I’ve loved every moment of interacting with other nationalities.”
Fortunately, Stall’s new position with the Cleveland Clinic, which he began in May 2013, will allow him to continue traveling and interacting with culturally diverse populations, all in working to build more stable communities.
And, as he is no longer military, he will be able to build bonds he wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to form.
“Because I’ve retired, I’ve stepped into this job,” he explained. “The State Department would have a fit letting a two-star general wander around some of these places.
“If something happened to me in one of those countries, that would pose a real challenging problem.”
The new Cleveland Clinic branch in Abu Dhabi, once completed in 2014, will be a 4-million-square-foot facility with 360 beds.
The clinic also manages an existing facility called Sheikh Khalifa Medical City. Stall toured both facilities and oversaw the progress being made during his trip.
O’Grady, who retired in 1993, attributes Stall’s high rank to an admirable level of integrity and efficiency, qualities that also helped him move through the ranks at the clinic, serving as chief of operations for the eight Cleveland Clinic regional hospitals, as well as interim president of South Pointe Hospital, president of Medina Hospital and president of Euclid Hospital, before advancing to his new position.
Of any successful military career, O’Grady said, “It’s something that should be honored.”
Remaining involved with military affairs, Stall also serves as an adviser to the clinic’s military resource group.
Seeing young men and women at early stages of their careers, he said, “I envy them tremendously, and I also tell them it may not be easy in the moment, but they’re going to go through a great career – a great experience.”