In the 1980s, when Kevin Stockdale ’88 was a UCI student, he majored in biology because he loved it and minored in management for more pragmatic reasons. But today, both aspects of Stockdale’s studies serve him well: tarantulas, frogs, snakes and hissing cockroaches have become a hobby, while he has made a career running what many consider a gold standard among college radio stations.

As broadcast media coordinator, Stockdale is KUCI’s only career employee, acting as business manager, athletic broadcast producer, community liaison, alumni coordinator and self-described “den mother.” He also is the station’s institutional memory, having worked there for 21 of its 35 years in existence. Stockdale began as a student deejay, interviewing the likes of then-unknown bands Megadeth, Anthrax and The Goo Goo Dolls.

Over the years, Stockdale says he learned to appreciate jazz music and various alternative bands. “Like everyone who walks in here, I thought I knew what was cutting edge. But other deejays over the years opened my eyes to other types of music.”

Indeed, the station aims to do just that for its listeners, too, by focusing on music not heard on mainstream radio. Among the bands played on KUCI long before they hit the Billboard charts were Green Day, Nirvana, No Doubt, R.E.M. and U2. Although KUCI didn’t necessarily make them famous, it’s no secret that what’s popular on its airwaves might be the next big thing.

As one consistent part of a constantly evolving organization, Stockdale ensures the station’s philosophy lives on and pursues long-term projects to enhance KUCI’s quality. His first major project was to increase the station’s signal power, allowing its eclectic music and engaging talk to be heard across more of Orange County. By 1997, the station had become one of the first to broadcast over the Internet, introducing KUCI to an international audience.

“At the time, we were excited to broadcast on the Internet, but we had no idea how significant it was until later,” Stockdale reflects.

Among the Web-based listeners are thousands UCI athletics’ fans who tune in to hear live and archived game coverage. For the last 10 years, Stockdale has worked with the radio voice of the Anteaters, Mark Roberts, to produce more polished live game broadcasts and the popular “Blue and Gold Report.”

“Kevin is an extremely creative person, and his input and insight have helped bring the KUCI athletic coverage to its current level,” says Roberts. “Kevin is the heart and soul of the station.”

Despite the serious business of keeping the station ahead of radio trends, Stockdale manages to have fun. His office is lined with toys and memorabilia from “The Simpsons” television series.

Perhaps it’s his youthful quirks that make Stockdale the most popular career-day speaker at the elementary school where his wife, Laura, teaches. There, he is popular not for talking about radio, but for showcasing a slew of creepy-crawly critters that make kids excited about science. No matter the audience, Stockdale is a pro at knowing what will be the next big thing.