Erika James Wharton School
Erika James, dean of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The prestigious Wharton School of Business has received a $5 million bitcoin donation, marking the largest cryptocurrency contribution it's ever received.

Wharton, part of the private University of Pennsylvania, said Thursday the donor is anonymous and that the gift will support the school's Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance. The Stevens Center lists research on lending, payments, and wealth management among its priorities.

"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," Erika James, the dean of Wharton, said in a statement. "The blend of innovative philanthropy with the outcomes this promises for students makes this a truly exciting moment for the Wharton community."

Wharton made its announcement a day after the price of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies crashed by more than 30%. The sell-off was sparked by the People's Bank of China saying digital tokens can't be used as a payment form by financial institutions. Bitcoin on Thursday regained some of its losses.

56% of the world's top 50 universities offer at least one class on crypto or blockchain, according to a 2019 study by cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase. That figure was higher than 42% logged in the previous year. Also, nearly 70% of such courses were in departments outside of computer science, such as law and the humanities.

Wharton's statement added that the "novel avenue" of cryptocurrency gifts to UPenn are processed through NYDIG, a crypto custody firm that's working with fintech company Fidelity National Information Services to bring bitcoin to hundreds of banks in the US this year.

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