He was an HSU graduate and went on to make TV history of sorts with his cartoon SpongeBob Square Pants. Stephen Hillenburg, has died at the age of 57. Hillenburg had announced last year that he was diagnosed with ALS, which is considered terminal and weakens the body’s muscles and ultimately greatly limits movement. He had graduated in 1984 from Humboldt State with a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resource Planning and Interpretation. Just three months ago, he gave the school $135,000 to provide grant awards for research in marine biology, oceanography and marine fisheries.