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Penn began accepting crypto donations in January 2021. As a general rule, Penn will sell the cryptocurrency as soon as it is received.

Credit: Alexa Cotler

The Wharton School received its largest cryptocurrency donation to date from an anonymous donor on May 20.

The $5 million donation in the form of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin will support the Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance, a center for furthering research and technology for businesses and finance.

“This investment marks a new era and mode of giving to the University and lifts up opportunities for students to become tomorrow’s leaders in finance," Wharton Dean Erika James said.

Bitcoin functions primarily as a digital form of cash. The technology used, known as a blockchain, records all transactions from miners who verify the currency. Mining for new transactions awards miners with currency that can be equated to the U.S dollar.

The donation was announced just one day after Bitcoin’s value decreased by nearly 30%. Immediately upon receiving the donation, Penn liquidated it through NYDIG, an alternative asset manager which regulates and verifies Bitcoins to institutions and high net-worth persons.

While the donor chose to remain anonymous, the University is aware of the donor's identity. 

Assistant Professor of Legal Studies & Business Ethics Julian Jonker said that while the donor may have chosen to remain anonymous, every transaction on Bitcoin can be looked up on the blockchain, meaning that anonymous crypto donations are not truly anonymous.

Penn began accepting crypto donations in January 2021. As a general rule, Penn will sell cryptocurrency as soon as it is received. Cryptocurrency gifts must be greater than $10,000 to be accepted, according to the Power of Penn website. 

Across the Ivy League, Princeton, Cornell, and Brown all accept cryptocurrency donations, as does Stanford. Similarly, Brown, Yale, and Harvard have all been purchasing crypto assets, reported.

Despite being a record-breaking crypto donation, the recent Bitcoin donation pales in comparison to other gifts made to the University, including a $125 million donation to Penn Carey Law School in 2019 and a $50 million donation to Wharton in 2018.

In the future, Jonker predicts that cryptocurrency donations to universities will become more common.

"I think all signs point towards increasing adoption and, increasingly, cryptocurrencies will be part of our ordinary lives,” Jonker said.

Correction: A previous version of this article was framed in such a way that made it seem that the University was not aware of the anonymous donor's identity, when in fact, Penn is aware of the donor's identity and the individual has chosen to remain anonymous. The DP regrets the error.