In Memoriam: Bob March

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Longtime BECA faculty member Bob March, affectionately known to a generation of Bay Area children as “Captain Satellite” from his children’s television program of the same name, died August 6 at age 93.

At SF State Bob taught BECA 322 Integrative Communication (formerly BCA and the Human Potential) and BECA 350 Media Performance, along with other courses.

Bob was a true broadcast pioneer. Like many of BECA’s faculty, Bob had a significant career in broadcasting before coming to SF State. He started his radio and television career in Wisconsin in the mid 1950s before moving to Bakersfield, CA in 1957 where he worked as an on air performer and directed shows as well.

But his really big broadcasting break came when he successfully pitched his concept for the “Captain Satellite” children’s program to KTVU in Oakland-- a new station that was just coming on the air.

Captain Satellite debuted on KTVU in 1958. The show aired live for an hour at 3:30 every weekday from 1958-1969 and for a time was the #1 rated live children’s show on the West Coast. Every day he would rocket in from outer space in his funky cutaway rocket ship and spend an hour with Bay Area children before blasting off again.

Bob saw the show as a mix of entertainment and education, and he often invited guests from NASA Ames to visit the show. The show was wildly popular with Bay Area children who Bob invited onto the set to participate in the broadcasts as co-hosts and participants in various games.

After the show ended its run Bob continued on at KTVU for several years as an announcer and director for another successful children’s show, “Romper Room.” He also had small parts in Steve McQueen’s movie, “Bullitt” and in Clint Eastwood’s “Magnum Force.”

In 1990, Bob March was inducted by the San Francisco/Northern California Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences into its Silver Circle for his more than 25 years of contributions to Bay Area radio and television.

I shared a faculty office with Bob in the late 1970s when I first came to SF State. When I met him I thought it a bit strange that he had a full-sized cardboard cutout of himself in a space suit next to his desk. I wasn’t a Bay Area native and I had no idea what a local legend he was. But invariably as he counseled students during office hours, they would stop him mid-sentence and blurt out: “Oh my god….you’re Captain Satellite!”

During the time I served as Department Chair Bob March was one of our most popular lecturers. With his practical experience in broadcasting and his graduate training in marriage and family counseling he had a great impact on students in our program.

Ron Compesi

Professor Emeritus, BECA