UI business alum donates $100,000 in Bitcoin to fund blockchain education | University-Illinois

CHAMPAIGN – On September 10, 2021, the University of Illinois received a donation like no other: a $100,000 donation in the form of Bitcoin, from Gies College of Business graduate Stanley Choi.

Since November 2019, the UI Foundation has received “maybe a dozen” cryptocurrency donations from benefactors, most of them under $5,000, said Michelle Bolger, vice president and comptroller. of the foundation.

Choi founded Head & Shoulders Financial Group, a Hong Kong-based brokerage and investment firm. He is also a successful professional poker player.

Choi only spent a year on the UI campus, earning his master’s degree in finance in 1996. But his time at CU had an impact.

Robert Brunner, the business school‘s director of disruption, said he and Dean Jeffrey Brown reached out to Choi through an advancement officer, Erin Nelson, in April 2021. The couple outlined their ideas about blockchain and how they wanted to implement it in college initiative.

Five months later, Choi sent his donation: $100,000 in Bitcoin, instantly liquidated using BitPay technology, to help support educational and extracurricular blockchain efforts.

“Stanley wanted to not only support it, but do it in an innovative way, and that was to give us a six-figure donation in Bitcoin,” Brunner said.

Choi is clearly ahead of cryptocurrency, blockchain and its potential impacts on the industry.

“Blockchain is going to change the way people do business,” Choi said at the business school. “I think it’s very similar to how the internet has changed business. Thirty years ago, people had no idea how big the internet was. They were skeptical and scared. There’s no doubt today that the internet has changed the world, and I see the same potential with blockchain.

So what is a blockchain? It is a database that stores information in digital blocks. Once each block is filled, it is closed and linked to the previous one, creating a chain.

Blockchains are essential for maintaining decentralized cryptocurrencies because they maintain a distributed, immutable public ledger of every transaction that occurs. The concept goes beyond simple cryptocurrency, however.

For Brunner and other blockchain explorers, the appeal lies in removing the middleman – facilitating “frictionless” transactions without a third-party mediator.

“Blockchain allows you to interact with people you might not even know, and you might not even trust them, but you can be sure the right thing is going to be done,” Brunner said.

As head of the college’s newly formed Disruption Lab, Brunner is constantly trying to master cutting-edge business topics — think cryptocurrency and blockchains, artificial intelligence, automation, virtual reality. – and how to merge them with the program and user interface systems.

Since Brunner and Brown met Choi, many of these technologies have exploded into the public sphere, spawning new ramifications and uses.

“You talk about the confluence of technologies, and if they don’t add up, they tend to multiply their effects, which can be even deeper,” Brunner said. “We’re trying to figure out what’s possible so we can help educate our faculty and staff ahead of that bleeding edge, and inform our curriculum to prepare our students.”

Brunner led efforts to give the business school its own blockchain. He “cloned” the blockchain for Ethereum, another cryptocurrency, for its members to create their own private ledgers.

The first application: tracking swag, such as coffee mugs, t-shirts, hats, etc.

“It was getting painful to deal with that,” Brunner said. “So we partnered with them on an experiment to track that inventory.”

Brunner hopes more hands-on experience for faculty, students and staff can accelerate the college’s education on the burgeoning technology.

“Blockchain has the potential to impact every aspect of our university,” Brunner said. “It has the potential to impact nearly every area of ​​campus.”

When it comes to cryptocurrency donations, will colleges soon be able to hold assets instead of instantly turning them into cash?

“We are certainly in discussion regarding holding cryptocurrency and determining the process to do so,” Bolger said. “There is a lot of interest from Gies to hold the crypto, and we are exploring different options there.”

Choi’s $100,000 donation, adjusted for inflation and Bitcoin value, is worth around $98,000 on Friday.

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