Queens College Returns $3 Million Donation for AIDS Research CenterQueens College announced Friday it will return $3 million of a $4.5 million donation that was to be used as "seed money" for an AIDS research center, the New York Times reports. The donation from alumnus Dr. Bernard Salick was to have endowed a chair in molecular and cellular biology for Dr. Luc Montagnier, a co-discoverer of HIV. Montagnier was to have "anchored" the $30 million center, which the college announced four years ago as part of a plan to raise its profile and attract a higher caliber of students and faculty. At the time, the state of New York agreed to donate $15 million, provided the college could secure the matching funds. Though then-President Dr. Alan Sessoms "expressed confidence" that he could raise the funds, he was never able to complete the goal and was asked to resign last summer by college officials who had "lost confidence in him." Two months ago, Salick and his wife asked for the return of the donation, saying their reputations had been "harmed" in philanthropic and scientific circles as a result of the center's failure. Although $1.5 million of the funds has already been spent on development plans for a new building and temporary research lab, the college will return the remainder -- the "final chapter" in the school's efforts to "put itself on the map" through an internationally renowned AIDS research center, the Times reports. Salick, a doctor turned entrepreneur, said Friday he was "deeply saddened and disappointed" that the plans were not fruitful and announced his resignation from the college's fundraising board.
Montagnier's Future Unclear
From the center's inception, some scientists called the project "doomed," saying the college had "limited money and limited science research" and would find it difficult to "draw enough strong researchers to make scientific progress." On Friday, Salick "dismissed" such claims, citing Montagnier's preeminence in the AIDS arena as a draw for other researchers. Montagnier said Friday that he had understood the challenges facing the center -- including fundraising and the lack of a medical school -- but had thought the project could be "managed." He holds a tenured position at the college and will remain for now, although he indicated that he is "considering other options" and "negotiat[ing]" with the college (Arenson, New York Times, 3/17). College spokesman Ron Cannava said administrators hope Montagnier will teach more classes and "conduct more of his research on the campus," but officials "acknowledge[d] that [Montagnier] has spent much of the past four years working at his other research centers in France and the Ivory Coast," as well as "on the lecture circuit" (Bazzi, Newsday, 3/20).