Every inch of wall, shelf and ceiling space in KUCI-FM 88.9 general manager Kevin Stockdale’s office inside a trailer on the UC Irvine campus is covered with pop culture. No, seriously: You’ll find (in varying degrees of volume and in no particular order) stuff from The Simpsons, Family Guy, ABC’s Lost, Metallica, King of the Hill, The Tick, H.R. Pufnstuf (and its Sigmund and the Sea Monsters spin-off), Mr. T, The Office, 30 Rock and, in places of particular honor, Star Trek.
You’ll also find KUCI’s original controls and a carved wooden sign from the station’s days on the other side of the campus. These artifacts are more in tune with his role of maintaining varying types of equipment, managing disc jockey email accounts, keeping in compliance with changing Federal Communications Commission rules and regulations, ensuring undergrads are receiving an education, maintaining the Emergency Alert System, applying discipline when needed to radio personnel who are actually volunteers, setting (and hopefully achieving) goals, and making what began as a loose operation when he started as a student volunteer in the 1980s more structured, formal and consistent.
“It’s challenging being the only paid person,” he says. “I can’t say, ‘Go talk to this other person’ [in human resources or above the general manager position]. I keep my superiors in the loop, but all the legwork is on my end.”
To give an idea of how precise Stockdale is about details, when he is asked how long he has been married to his wife, Laura, he answers without a pause, “Nineteen years, four months and 10 days.” Kevin, Laura, 7-year-old Olivia and 3-year-old Henry reside on Costa Mesa’s Westside, but the dad hails from across the border in Huntington Beach, where he lived in the same house until his college years at UCI. As Stockdale remarks, “You see a theme here: limited change.”
He got a biology degree, but “I decided three years in I was not going to pursue anything in biology. I was not sure what I was going to do,” he says. “I’m still not sure what I’m going to do.” But in 1988, during his fifth year at UCI, changes in FCC rules allowed the campus radio station to improve its signal, and thus reach a larger audience. The student government council, which oversaw KUCI, decided it then needed a paid, part-time employee to deal with increasingly frequent programming issues. Stockdale became that employee, stopped taking classes and got a second part-time job with Domino’s Pizza to make ends meet.
Fortunately, his general manager position was made full-time in 1990, and he was able to quit making pies. Fast-forward to today, and Stockdale says of his job, “It’s always changing. I deal a lot with technology [KUCI was one of the first radio stations anywhere to webcast]. I like to tell people I feel old. I did not touch a computer until after I left college. I simply used a phone and notepad. There was no email, which to this day is the curse of my existence.”
Dealing with clashing personalities and college know-it-alls, it’s no surprise when Stockdale remarks, “A den mother is what I feel like sometimes.” That was before he pointed to a monitor in his office with live video from several angles inside and outside KUCI. “I also feel like a prison warden.”
Save for the wish list—”more power, more funding”—Stockdale wouldn’t have it any other way. “I feel real fortunate to still have a job here after three decades,” he says. “The university is a fantastic place to work. I’m a lucky guy.”
OC Weekly Editor-in-Chief Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the alternative newsweekly’s first calendar editor.