KSDB chief operator to retire this year

Standing at the far left of the back row, Vern Wirka poses with the Amateur Radio Club. Wirka announced he will retire at the end of the year. (Photo by Evert Nelson / Royal Purple)

After functioning as the KSDB-FM faculty adviser and chief operator for the last seven years, the highly regarded and admired Vern Wirka has announced his retirement effective Dec. 31.

Wirka spent many days and nights on-call for radio stations throughout his career, with KSDB being the final installment of his lifelong broadcast journey. As many students acknowledge his future departure, they are sure to reflect on the eminent development of KSDB since Wirka’s arrival in 2011.

Wirka has been functioning at KSDB not only as the chief operator, but as an adviser, a role model and an evident influencer among his students. Combining an extensive radio and broadcast background, with a mastery of engineering, followed by a passion for molding students, Wirka could not have found himself in a more suitable position.

“Working with KSDB has given me the opportunity to pass along my knowledge and experience to another generation or more of broadcasters,” Wirka said.

Wirka has made sure traditional radio stays as relevant and up-to-date as possible. With segments of talk shows, roundtable discussions and live musical performances being integrated into the show, Wirka said he believes broadcast radio will continue to prove itself over and over again.

“The next generation of broadcasting is moving more and more every day towards a direction of change in the distribution system,” Wirka said. “From over the air, to a broadband internet system, KSDB is right there.”

It is no secret that Wirka is as humble as he is dedicated. When asked about his legacy, he chuckled.

“I am a firm believer that in any job or position, you ought to leave the operation in a much better condition than you found it,” Wirka said.

The station was relocated several times before finding its current home in McCain Auditorium. When Wirka arrived, the station was certainly not state-of-the-art.

“It definitely did not have the capabilities to provide students with the experiences they needed to be successful in a broadcast career,” Wirka said. “We have expanded the technical capabilities and upgraded the studios and software.”

The overall possibility for students to gain news writing and on-air skills has expanded due to Wirka’s advances. KSDB is now an NBC network radio affiliate. With so much to be proud of, Wirka said he is most proud to have been able to construct an environment that allows students to be creative on multiple levels.

LeAndre Carthen, graduate student in mass communications, is the KSDB station manager, and he said he considers himself lucky to have worked with Wirka.

“He makes sure the rooms are always put together, and everything is taken care of,” Carthen said. “He’s a proactive person in regard to staying in regulation with the Federal Communications Commission.”

James Copeland, senior in mass communications and programming director for KSDB, has also created a bond with Wirka. He said he believes his four years spent learning under the broadcasting veteran’s mentorship were nothing short of remarkable. Copeland credits his adviser with having a profound impact on his life.

“He has taught me as much about life as he has about radio,” Copeland said. “He is a beacon of integrity and virtue.”

Copeland recalled meeting Wirka while helping to remodel the station, and then seeing him six or seven days a week while working for KSDB.

“It will be with a heavy heart that I see him retire,” Copeland said. “But he deserves everything that is coming to him in retirement, including the reduced stress from not having to worry about keeping the station on air every day.”

Although the mark left by Wirka is a prominent one, Copeland hopes that Wirka’s forerunner enables students to thrive by engaging and making recommendations.

While the chief operator position will be up for grabs, Wirka has obtained a Society of Broadcast Engineers certification and will remain the adviser of the Amateur Radio Club. Upon retiring, Wirka said he plans to do some traveling with his wife and enjoy not being on-call.