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Peter Diamandopoulos dead; former Adelphi president was 86

Former Adelphi University president Peter Diamandopoulos, on the

Former Adelphi University president Peter Diamandopoulos, on the Garden City campus in an undated photo, died on Wednesday, April 1, 2015, officials said. Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile

Former Adelphi University president Peter Diamandopoulos, who was fired from the university after a 12-year tenure amid conflict of interest allegations and concerns about his lavish lifestyle and high salary, has died, university officials said Tuesday night. He was 86.

Diamandopoulos, a Harvard graduate, was president of the university from 1985 to 1997. He died April 1, officials said.

After becoming president, Diamandopoulos set out to turn Adelphi into an elite university rooted in the humanities, reflecting his own Ivy League roots.

But by the end of his tenure, the university's reputation had been damaged by complaints about Diamandopoulos' lofty salary -- the second highest paid college president in the country at the time -- and his taste for the good life.

In one seven-month period, he took three university-paid trips to Greece and Switzerland, according to a report by Newsday after his firing.

His peak salary plus benefits were $524,000 a year, Newsday reported at the time. Only then-Boston University president John R. Silber, another ousted member of the Adelphi board of trustees, had a heftier salary package.

After Diamandopoulos' ouster, the university embarked on a nationwide search to find his replacement before naming Matthew Goldstein, the president of CUNY's Baruch College in Manhattan.

Goldstein set out to change the focus of the Garden City university to professional and liberal arts programs.

The new president acknowledges he would have to confront the Diamandopoulos legacy.

"It's very clear that there's a residue of mistrust by some people," Goldstein said in an interview with Newsday before he started as president.

Diamandopoulos' Adelphi presidency was marked by legal battles, bitterness over his salary and perquisites, board mismanagement of funds and concerns about low student enrollment.

In February 1997, Diamandopoulos was swept out of power, along with 18 of the 19 members of the Garden City university's board of trustees.

Among the reasons for the dismissal of Diamandopoulos and the trustees was the overpaying Diamandopoulos and persistent conflict of interest allegations between members and the university.

After new board members were appointed, they fired Diamandopoulos as president.

While Diamandopoulos was collecting his salary -- including perquisites such as an $80,000 Mercedes-Benz and a $1.5 million Manhattan apartment -- enrollment at the university plunged as did its prestige.

Diamandopoulos was known for lavish spending and expensive taste. While Diamandopoulos was Adelphi's president, he and Silber once spent $455 on wine and Cognac at an upscale Manhattan club and charged it to Adelphi, Newsday reported at the time.

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