C. L. Max Nikias

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C. L. Max Nikias on the USC campus

Chrysostomos L. "Max" Nikias (born September 30, 1952 in Cyprus[1]) became the University of Southern California's eleventh president in August 2010.[2] He holds the Robert C. Packard President's Chair and the Malcolm R. Currie Chair in Technology and the Humanities, and chairs the USC Hospitals Governing Board. He has been at USC since 1991, as a professor, director of national research centers, dean, provost, and now president. He holds faculty appointments in both electrical engineering and the classics, and leads special freshman seminars each fall on ancient Athenian democracy and drama.

Early life[edit]

Nikias was born on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. There, he graduated with honors from the Famagusta Gymnasium, a school that emphasizes sciences, history, and Greco-Roman classics. He married his wife Niki in 1977,[3] and the couple have two daughters, Georgiana and Maria.[1] He received a degree in electrical and mechanical engineering from the National Technical University of Athens in 1977, and has an academic interest in Athenian drama and democracy.[4] Nikias earned a master's degree in 1980 and a Ph.D. in 1982 in electrical engineering at the State University of New York at Buffalo. (His predecessor as USC president, Steven Sample, is likewise an electrical engineer, and served as president of SUNY-Buffalo from 1982 to 1991.)[5]


Faculty experience[edit]

Nikias was appointed to the faculty at the University of Connecticut from 1982 to 1985, and at Northeastern University from 1985 to 1991; he became a U.S. citizen in 1989.

He joined the USC faculty in 1991, the same year that Sample became the university's president. From 2001 to 2005, he was dean of USC's Viterbi School of Engineering, and from 2005 to 2011, he served as the university's provost. Since 2008, he has held the Malcolm R. Currie Chair in Technology and the Humanities. On March 11, 2010, he was chosen by a unanimous vote of the university's board of trustees to succeed Steven Sample as president.

He was founding director of two national research centers at USC: the NSF-funded Integrated Media Systems Center and the Department of Defense (DoD)-funded Center for Research on Applied Signal Processing. The DoD has adopted a number of his innovations and patents in sonar, radar, and communication systems.

Dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering (2001-2005)[edit]

From 2001 to 2005, Nikias served as dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, solidifying its position as a top-tier engineering school. He directed the expansion of the school's biomedical engineering enterprise and developed its distance-learning program into one of the largest in the country at that time. He oversaw the development of the school's Tutor Hall of Engineering. He also established key partnerships with corporations, among them Pratt & Whitney, Airbus, Boeing, Chevron, and Northrop Grumman, and led a fundraising campaign that brought in more than $250 million, capped by a $52 million school-naming gift from Andrew and Erna Viterbi.[6]

USC provost (2005-2010)[edit]

From June 2005 to August 2010, Nikias served as USC's provost and chief academic officer. He was instrumental in bringing USC trustee Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation Institute and its vast video archive of 55,000 testimonies of Holocaust survivors to USC.[7] Nikias also established the university's Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging, Stevens Center for Innovation, U.S.-China Institute,[8] and Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics. He launched Visions and Voices, USC's campus-wide arts and humanities initiative, as well as a grant program to advance scholarship in the humanities and social sciences.[9] Nikias spearheaded the integration of the Keck School of Medicine of USC’s faculty practice plans, oversaw the transfer of University Hospital and USC Norris Cancer Hospital from Tenet Healthcare Corporation to the university, and recruited a new leadership team for USC's medical enterprise.

USC president (2010-present)[edit]

As president, Nikias has articulated a vision for USC to attain undisputed, elite status as a global research university. His initiatives include recruiting a cadre of transformative, world-class faculty; elevating USC's academic medical enterprise; expanding USC's international presence; further improving the breadth and quality of USC's student body; and embarking on the largest fundraising campaign in higher education's history.[10]

The Chronicle of Higher Education has called Nikias a "prodigious fundraiser.”[11] His first three years as president were highlighted by 23 transformative gifts that allowed USC to raise an unprecedented total of $3 billion.[12] These gifts include a $200 million gift from Dana and David Dornsife to name USC's College of Letters, Arts and Sciences—the single largest donation in the university's history;[13] a $150 million gift from the W. M. Keck Foundation for medicine;[14] a $110 million gift from Julie and John Mork to support student scholarships;[15] a $70 million gift from Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young for arts, technology, and the business of innovation;[16] a $50 million gift from the Price Family Charitable Fund to endow and name the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.;[17] and a $50 million gift from Dr. Gary Michelson for convergent bioscience.[18]

Nikias brought the nation's largest literary festival, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, to USC. In addition, under his leadership, the university embarked on a major capital construction initiative that already includes the McKay Center for athletics, the Engemann Student Health Center, a new Cinematic Arts building, the University Club at King Stoops Hall, the Soto Building on the Health Sciences Campus, Verna and Peter Dauterive Hall for social sciences, Wallis Annenberg Hall for communication and journalism, Uytengsu Aquatics Center, and beautification projects for both of USC's campuses, which include the planting of thousands of trees.

In recognition of his efforts to renew USC's athletic heritage, The New York Times selected Nikias as one of a small number of national figures "who make sports' little corner of the world a better place.”[19]


Over his two-decade career as an active scholar, Nikias gained acclaim for his research in the fields of digital signal processing and communications, digital media systems, and biomedicine. Some of his other research interests have included radar and sonar technologies.[20] He has consulted with corporations and the U.S. government. He is the author of more than 275 journal articles and conference papers, three textbooks, and eight patents.

Awards and honors[edit]

Nikias is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,[21] a member of the National Academy of Engineering,[22] a charter fellow of the National Academy of Inventors (NAI),[23] and a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)[24] and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).[25] Among numerous other honors, he has received the IEEE Simon Ramo Medal,[26] as well as the State University of New York at Buffalo’s Distinguished Alumni Award and Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Award.[27] He also received honorary doctorates from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion[28] and the University of Cyprus.[29] Nikias was awarded the Aristeia medal, the Republic of Cyprus' highest honor in the letters, arts, and sciences. In addition, he received the USC Black Alumni Association's Thomas Kilgore Service Award,[30] and earned a commendation for cutting-edge research from the governor of California.[31]

Personal life[edit]

Nikias lived on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, an area southwest of Los Angeles, with his wife and two daughters. Following his inauguration as president of USC, he and his family moved to San Marino, located closer to both USC campuses.[32]


  • Nikias, Chrysostomos L and Min Shao. Signal processing with alpha-stable distributions and applications. New York: Wiley, c1995. xiii, 168 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. ISBN 0-471-10647-X
  • Nikias, Chrysostomos L. and Athina P. Petropulu. Higher-order spectra analysis : a nonlinear signal processing framework. Englewood Cliffs, N.J. : PTR Prentice Hall, c1993. xxii, 537 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. ISBN 0-13-678210-8


  1. ^ a b "Profile of USC's next president". Los Angeles Times. 2010-03-12. Retrieved 21 July 2010. 
  2. ^ "C. L. Max Nikias Named 11th President of USC". USC News. 11 March 2010. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  3. ^ "The Climb of His Life". Trojan Family Magazine. 2003. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  4. ^ "C. L. Max Nikias Biography". usc.edu. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  5. ^ "About USC - President Emeritus". Retrieved 27 September 2013. 
  6. ^ "Cell phone pioneer endows Viterbi School of Engineering". viterbi.usc.edu. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  7. ^ "USC College to House Shoah Foundation". usc.edu. 2005-09-10. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  8. ^ Nikias announcement of the creation of the USC U.S.-China Institute; Nikias introductory remarks at inaugural USC U.S.-China Institute conference.
  9. ^ "Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative". usc.edu. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  10. ^ "Inaugural Address: "The Destined Reign of Troy"". usc.edu. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  11. ^ "As Its Popular President Retires, USC Eyes An Encore". The Chronicle of Higher Education. 2010-03-07. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  12. ^ "C. L. Max Nikias biography". usc.edu. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  13. ^ "Couple to give record $200 million gift to USC". Los Angeles Times. 2011-03-09. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  14. ^ "Keck Foundation gives $150 million to USC medical school". Los Angeles Times. 2011-06-13. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  15. ^ "Couple donates $110 million for USC undergraduate scholarships". Los Angeles Times. 2011-04-27. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  16. ^ "Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre give $70 million to create new academy at USC". usc.edu. 2013-05-15. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  17. ^ "USC School of Public Policy gets $50 million gift". Los Angeles Times. 2011-11-29. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  18. ^ "$50 million funds convergent bioscience research at USC". usc.edu. 2014-01-13. Retrieved 3 April 2014. 
  19. ^ "Moments to Savor from the Sports World". The New York Times. 2010-11-24. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  20. ^ "USC Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering: Chrysostomos L. Nikias". ee.usc.edu. Retrieved 20 September 2010. 
  21. ^ "2013 Fellows and their affiliations at the time of election (PDF)" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  22. ^ http://www.nae.edu/MembersSection/Directory20412/31047.aspx
  23. ^ http://www.academyofinventors.org/search-fellows.asp?Cursor=2&QueryItem=%&GO=N&qSort=%
  24. ^ http://www.ieee.org/membership_services/membership/fellows/alphabetical/nfellows.html#Ni
  25. ^ http://membercentral.aaas.org/fellows
  26. ^ http://www.ieee.org/about/awards/bios/ramo_recipients.html
  27. ^ http://www.buffalo.edu/UBT/UBT-archives/volume26number3/alumni_news/achievementawards.html
  28. ^ http://huc.edu/news/article/2011/cl-max-nikias-phd-president-university-of-southern-california-brreceived-honorary-doctor-of-humane-letters-from-brhebrew-union-college-jewish-institute-of-religion
  29. ^ http://www.kios.ucy.ac.cy/about-us/kios-advisory-board/chrysostomos-l-max-nikias.html
  30. ^ http://viterbi.usc.edu/admission/professionalprograms/usc-forum-india/panelists/c-l-max-nikias.htm
  31. ^ http://www.ccst.us/ccstinfo/board/bios/nikias.php
  32. ^ "Many see a clean slate in Friday’s inauguration of USC president". Los Angeles Times. 14 October 2010. Retrieved 27 September 2013. 
Academic offices
Preceded by
Steven B. Sample
11th President of the University of Southern California
August 3, 2010-
Succeeded by