By Chris Fuchs
Dr. Bernard Salick, a Queens College alumnus who lives in California, sent a letter to the president of Queens College, Dr. Russell Hotzler, on Jan. 17 requesting that the college return his $4.5 million with interest because the school did not fulfill its part of the agreement to construct the center.
According to college spokesman Ron Cannava, Salick's request came after the college announced last month that instead of housing the Bernard and Gloria Salick Center of Molecular Biology in a free-standing structure, it would dedicate a wing of an existing building for the center. The college was forced to pursue this proposal after failing to raise the necessary funds for a separate building.
Nevertheless, Cannava said the college was optimistic that it would strike an agreement with Salick. “He has given interviews that he loves Queens College and the program,” Cannava said.
The center was viewed as a coup for the City University of New York, firmly planting one of its colleges at the forefront of AIDS research. Contained in the $4.5 million contribution was $1.5 million to endow a chair for Dr. Luc Montagnier, co-discover of the AIDS virus.
Nearly three years ago, under President Allen Sessoms, Queens College worked out an agreement with the state that if it raised $15 million for the center, the state would match the funds. But the college never met the Nov. 30, 1999, state-imposed deadline and the agreement was voided. Sessoms resigned as president last year and moved to Boston.
In December, the college chided Montagnier for not obtaining any grants to fund research once the center is built. Cannava said the college had not worked out contingency plans should its efforts to keep Salick from reneging on his offer prove fruitless.
“We are planning to get him to agree to a new proposal,” he said.