Meaningful Conversations | Eastern North Carolina Now

    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Patricia Earnhardt Tyndall.

Ashley, Leslie, Justin and Christian Conrad gather at the Main Campus Student Center conference room named in their parents’ memory. (Photo by George Crocker)

    Ken and Lee Conrad talked to everyone.

    The ease with which they carried on conversations throughout their lives is the inspiration for naming a meeting room in their memory at the East Carolina University Main Campus Student Center.

    A gift from Bay Hill Seafood Sales aims to keep conversations going on campus among people from all walks of life.

    "The naming of a conference room made a lot of sense," said Justin Conrad '96, president of Bay Hill Seafood Sales. "They would be pleased having their name on a place where meaningful conversations can happen and where decisions can be made, not just about the university, but the world at large."

    The gift will be shared between the Students Fund for Excellence and the Student Centers Priority Fund. The Fund for Excellence supports funding priorities across the division of Student Affairs for quick response to emerging issues and student needs. The Student Centers Fund is used to respond to needs related to the Main Campus Student Center and related areas.

    For the Conrad family, the gift is the right fit at the right time.

    Justin Conrad has known Keith Tingley '02, '09, '17 with Student Affairs Development for some time. Over the years they had talked about giving back to East Carolina.

    "I have been waiting for the right fit, and when I saw the proposal for the room at the student center, it felt like the right time," Conrad said. "I am pleased and honored to do it."

    In naming a place like the student center meeting room in memory of his parents, it is Conrad's hope that meaningful conversations can happen.

    "I am not saying this only because they were my parents. They were two of the nicest people you've ever met," Conrad said. "They were open-minded and willing to talk to people of all backgrounds."

    Ken Conrad, president and CEO of Libby Hill Seafood, was "comfortable with everyone," his son said.

    He was equally comfortable in the kitchen working with staff and out front talking with the leadership at a fancy dinner, his son explained.

    Ken spent his career in the restaurant industry in the Greensboro area and served as chairman of the National Restaurant Association prior to his death in 2015.

    Philanthropy is standard practice in the Conrad family.

    "My parents believed in service and were always involved in other charities," Conrad said. "We were food people, so of course we always gave to efforts to feed people."

    His father began a Thanksgiving meal for Greensboro's homeless and directed and participated in that effort for more than 30 years.

    Justin and the Conrad family have honored his parents with donations to cancer research efforts focused primarily on pancreatic, blood and childhood cancers. He leads a Reelin' for Research event annually to benefit the UNC Cancer Center.

    Ken died of pancreatic cancer in 2015 and Lee died in 2018 from leukemia.

    "ECU has been great about partnering with us in all of these fundraising efforts to fight cancer," Conrad said. "Every year, the university has given tickets and autographed gear for the cause. They always, always supported us and I am really grateful for that."

    Ties to ECU run deep in the Conrad family.

    Ken Conrad came to East Carolina in 1961, staying for two years before returning to Greensboro to work in his family's restaurant in 1963. He went on to complete his degree at Guilford College.

    Lee Forbis '64 also came to Greenville from Guilford County. She was in the last class of East Carolina Teachers College students and was a Sigma, Sigma, Sigma Sorority member while at ECU.

    The first of their lifetime of conversations happened at ECU. The couple did not date until they had both returned to Greensboro.

    "The way my siblings and I recall is that they met at a party at East Carolina and mom was not very impressed," Conrad said. "Evidently it worked out better the second time."

    One of his uncles is a Pirate and Justin's brother Christian '94, followed the family line to ECU. Justin often visited campus during his brother's time as a student.

    "I was always going to go to ECU," Conrad said. "You can say East Carolina had a leg up on everyone else when it came to where I was going to college."

    Justin Conrad majored in political science and credits the university with giving him his political start. He was president of his freshman and senior class, was involved with the Interfraternity Council and was very involved in Greek life on campus.

    "I loved my time at East Carolina," he said.

    Conrad fondly recalls many of his political science courses, especially with the late Dr. Nancy Spalding, including a Nigerian politics course that has stuck with him for decades.

    As he followed the family to ECU, Conrad also returned to Greensboro and worked in the family business with his father.

    He's been president of Bay Hill Seafood Sales since 2005.

    Conrad also has stayed active in politics. He's recently completed eight years of service as a Guilford County commissioner.

    He's also passionate about his Pirates and looking forward to more trips to Greenville to see the Pirates play.

    Now for the Conrads there will also be a place on campus where the conversation is just getting started.
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