Conrad BarrowsConrad Barrows

When Conrad eases onto the dance floor, he will reflect the poise of a distinguished gentleman who served in the United States Army for nearly three decades.

But don't let that cool, calm demeanor fool you.

"I enjoy the outdoors," he says with a smile. "That duck you see gliding on the water? He's swimming nice and easy, but just under the surface, his feet are paddling furiously."

Conrad has never had formal dance instruction, though he and his wife Barbara, cut the rug at social events in their winter home state of Florida. Of course, that's different than performing for more than 600 people, including some of Conrad's and Barbara's combined seven children and 14 grandchildren.

"I thought I was pretty good, until I started working with Susan Alby," says Conrad of his professional dance partner. "Then I realized how far I have to go. Susan is very encouraging and says I'm improving and that we're on target. One of my grandchildren asked me, 'Show me how to dance, Grandpa!' I said, 'Not yet."

Conrad graduated from Sheboygan South High School in 1963 and was the AFS student to Valencia, Spain, in his junior year. He earned his bachelor's degree from Wake Forest University and was commissioned into the U.S. Army in 1967. Conrad served on active duty and in the Army Reserve for 28 years, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and earning the Meritorious Service Medal.

"It just so happens that May 20 (the date of the Gala) is Armed Forces Day, which is meaningful to me," Conrad says, hinting there will be a military theme to his Lindy Hop routine.

While growing a successful sales and marketing career in the plastics industry, Conrad earned his Master of Business Administration from Lakeland in 1999, and later worked at the college for six years in Advancement.

"It's such a great place," he says. "I have a deep-seated love and appreciation for Lakeland and the people. I believe in giving back to those who give to you."

Conrad is sponsored by the Melitta S. and Joan M. Pick Charitable Trust and has chosen Wisconsin Military Network as his recipient charity. If Conrad is the Gala Champion, his charity will receive $10,000.

Conrad will perform a Lindy Hop routine with his dance partner, Susan Alby.