SpongeBob SquarePants Creator and Wife Endow Fund to Provide Grants to HSU Students

Stephen Hillenburg SpongeBobPress release from Humboldt State University:

Stephen Hillenburg (’84, Natural Resources Planning and Interpretation) is best known for making a lighthearted—and significant—contribution to the appreciation of marine life through the creation of the hit animated television series “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

Now, Hillenburg is furthering his contribution to the marine sciences through an endowment designed to support student research. This year, he and his wife Karen created the Stephen Hillenburg Marine Science Research Award Endowment at HSU with a $135,000 gift to provide grant awards for student research projects in marine biology, oceanography, and marine fisheries.

Through this generous endowment, the Hillenburgs’ gift will help provide research opportunities for future generations of HSU students. Endowments work by investing a donor’s contribution long-term, using only the income generated each year to provide research awards in perpetuity.

It was at Humboldt State where Hillenburg deepened his knowledge of marine biology while also nourishing his talent as an artist, once saying that he “blossomed as a painter in Humboldt.” In hindsight, it seems natural that Hillenburg’s love of marine science and art would converge with the creation of “SpongeBob SquarePants,” which chronicles the adventures of SpongeBob and his friends in a fictional underwater city. Released in 1999, the popular Nickelodeon show has been adapted into two movies, with a third in production. The franchise also debuted on the live stage this year with “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Broadway Musical.”

The creation of this endowment fund is a major boost to student research at HSU, which is critical for hands-on education for marine biology and oceanography students. The funds will be used for research supplies, equipment, and services, giving more students access to experiential learning opportunities.

If you have questions about the Stephen Hillenburg Marine Science Research Award Endowment, or if you would like to learn about other ways to support HSU students, you can visit loyalty.humboldt.edu, email the Office of Philanthropy at giving@humboldt.edu, or call 707.826.5200.



  • What a waste. HSU sucks.

    • HSU provided a solid education for many people including locals like myself. I went to UC Berkeley and then got my teaching degree at HSU. It isn’t a perfect school but it has many fine teachers and graduates. “HSU sucks” is neither helpful criticism nor likely to make this community thrive. I challenge you to be clear and detailed about the issues that exist there.

      • Yep me too kym, had a great overall experience there.
        Talking with students who would transfer from other schools for a semester, i remember hearing things like wow you call your prof by first name&they have actual office hours you can go ask questions&the profs wear tshirts&know me by name. It really made me appreciate HSU.
        I can only speak for the science departments but i found i was taught to work with my fellow students, not compete against them. Maybe thats partly why so many high level folks in agencies like calfire and fish&game are HSU grads. The science depts will kick ur ass, still rated top 5 in country for wildlife mngmnt.
        No where is perfect and students/faculty should have more say over who runs the show, the admin sucks.

        Also many thx to the awesome growers of sweet clean sun bud which im sure helped inspire spongebob at the beginning, heehee 😉

      • Well maybe … how many years ago was that, Kym? Things have changed. Many universities have become more interested in enrolling students than in rigorous education. Especially in the soft sciences and liberal arts. Does anyone fail these days if they attend classes?
        I have had a fair amount of contact with the faculty over the years but little with the students.

  • Sponge Bob rules !

  • OK. That’s hopefully useful. Science tends to be less delusional than other fields at HSU.

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