SpongeBob creator and HSU grad diagnosed with ALS; Humboldt’s Last Week of news

In the latest episode of Humboldt Last Week: Love and positive thoughts from the North Coast are being sent out to Stephen Hillenburg, an HSU graduate and the creator of “SpongeBob SquarePants.” According to his statement released by Variety the 55-year-old has been diagnosed with ALS. He intends to continue his work on the series for as long as he is able.

“My family and I are grateful for the outpouring of love and support,” reads the statement. “We ask that our sincere request for privacy be honored during this time.”

Stephen graduated from HSU in 1984 with a marine-science major and art minor. He pitched his show idea to Nickelodeon in 1996 and the series premiered in 1999. As of 2015 the Emmy award-winning show has generated over $12 billion in merchandising revenue for Nickelodeon, according to Bloomberg. Among other generous efforts his foundation United Plankton helped fund renovations to the HSU Marine Lab.

"When I remember my time in Humboldt, I remember rain, Top Ramen, and the library,” he said. “I'm kidding, but the rain is significant because without it there would be no redwoods. Humboldt has incredibly rigorous science programs. It has dedicated teachers and students. Fortunately for me the school is not only surrounded by redwood forests, but it sits along an incredible part of the California coast. There are bays, estuaries, undeveloped coastline and open ocean and, of course, HSU utilizes the availability of these resources in their courses. One time my biology class went into the mountains to collect stream organisms. We were collecting insects in this tiny stream and under this rock we found a three-foot lamprey eel… I wouldn't hesitate to recommend going (to HSU).”

A few years back I interviewed Stephen about his experiences in Humboldt County.

In the audio more quotes from the interview with Stephen are shared. The story begins at 6:51.

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is a terminal illness that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. There is no cure but in some cases those that have it can live for a long time -- Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with the same illness in 1963. Some may remember the viral “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” which raised well over a hundred millions dollars for the ALS Association. “The Association builds hope and enhances quality of life while aggressively searching for new treatments and a cure,” according to their website.

Also covered: An airport update, a Humboldt-born TV dog (pictured below), lighthouse leeway, the Sheriff on immigration, a puppy dropped from a bridge, court cases, school lock-downs, and much more.

Stephen Hillenburg

Image: Anoop Kumar