Princess Grace Foundation Launches Animation Scholarship

Stephen Hillenburg - World Premiere of The SpongeBob Movie -Getty-H 2017
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The Princess Grace Foundation-USA is introducing the Stephen Hillenburg Animation Scholarship, a gift awarded annually to support emerging animators and named after the creator of the Nickelodeon franchise SpongeBob SquarePants.

Hillenburg himself received the Princess Grace Award in 1991, and in 2012 he was honored with the Statue Award, the highest honor bestowed on a prior award-winner. Karen and Stephen Hillenburg have endowed the Foundation with a gift that will support the new award, which will be presented annually to an emerging talent in the animation field. Hillenburg is the first Princess Grace Award winner to gift the Foundation with a scholarship.

The introduction of the award and its first recipient will be made during a reception on Tuesday, one day before the Princess Grace Awards Gala, where James Cameron will be honored with the Prince Rainier III Award for his “outstanding contributions to the arts and his exemplary give-back.”

In its 35th year, the Foundation supports the legacy of Princess Grace of Monaco by identifying and assisting emerging talent in theater, dance, and film by awarding grants in the form of scholarships, apprenticeships and fellowships. Since the Foundation's inception, its award recipients have included Leslie Odom Jr., Cary Fukunaga, Tony Kushner and Oscar Isaac.

PGF-USA executive director Toby Boshak got emotional as she described how the Hillenburgs would like to give back through the organization that helped Stephen start his career to assist future animators. “I have gotten to know Stephen and Karen. Stephen is one of the most generous and warm persons I have ever met. The brilliance of his mind is characterized by SpongeBob,” said Boshak.

The long-running SpongeBob series debuted in 1999. The New York premiere of the first SpongeBob movie, which opened in 2004, was also a Princess Grace Foundation benefit.

Tom Kenney, the voice actor behind SpongeBob SquarePantsand the rest of the show's voice cast are scheduled to attend Tuesday’s reception, which is being hosted by Paramount and Nickelodeon on the Paramount lot.

Earlier this year, Hillenburg announced that he had been diagnosed with ALS.