The New York Times dedicated an extensive obituary to Dr. Peter Diamandopoulos, former President of the University Adelphi, in Long Island, who was ousted from that position in 1997.
He died in Manhattan at age 86.
The article perpetuated some inaccuracies that I cannot let go unnoticed, not only because I was a friend, but for reasons of justice.
Born in Heraklion, Peter was a brilliant and learned man. His speech made an impression, his vocabulary was rich.
He had a strong personality that made its presence felt wherever he was.
He enjoyed the good life, living it to the fullest. But he was a man of such good faith that bordered on naiveté.
He was a passionate Greek. He vacationed annually in Greece and considered retiring in Athens, where he had bought an apartment.
For a time, he advised former Prime Minister George Papandreou on educational matters – and of course, the effort left him disappointed.
When Peter took over the leadership of Adelphi University, the institution could hardly pay the salaries of its professors. He was faulted, wrote the Times, for not doing enough to improve the finances of the university. Yet, the article continues … in parentheses… he raised its endowment from $4 million to $48 million!
The most serious and continuous however charge against Diamandopoulos was the level of his salary, which rose by 60 percent in 12 years, to $837,000, the second-highest salary in the country for a university President.
His salary was probably too high, but it was set by the Board of Directors, the majority of which consisted of Greek-Americans and Greeks. That made it suspicious. But why? Doesn ’ t that happen with other minorities?
The real problem – which the Times did not report – lay elsewhere: Diamandopoulos made it his life’s purpose to raise the standing of Adelphi. He hired many good professors, and was more selective in the students the school accepted.
At the same time he pushed strongly –and unfortunately, arrogantly – the faculty to do more work. Much more.
That is where he stumbled. They eventually rebelled and turned to the Times, which published – unbelievably – 64 articles against him!
It was a Saturday when the first article was published – on the front page with a horrible picture. I immediately grasped their intentions. “I’m not leaving,” he told me. “I did nothing to cause me to fear.”
He fought much as he could. And the Board stuck with him until the end. But the opposing forces were too strong, and they prevailed and finally dismissed him, although he received $ 2.3 million in compensation.
So what his opponents and the Times accused him off were not Peter’s real issues. They were blown up to get him fired.