C. L. Max Nikias

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C. L. Max Nikias
Nikias on the USC campus
11th President of the University of Southern California
In office
August 3, 2010 – August 7, 2018
Preceded bySteven Sample
Succeeded byWanda Austin (interim)
Personal details
Chrysostomos Loizos Nikias

(1952-09-30) September 30, 1952 (age 66)
Komi Kebir, Cyprus
Niki (m. 1977)
Children2 daughters
Alma materNational Technical University of Athens, University at Buffalo
ProfessionElectrical engineering, Higher education, Academic administration

Chrysostomos Loizos "Max" Nikias (Greek: Χρυσόστομος Λοΐζος Νικίας; born September 30, 1952) is a Cypriot-American academic, and served as the 11th University of Southern California president, a position he held from August 3, 2010,[1] to August 7, 2018.[2] He holds the Malcolm R. Currie Chair in Technology and the Humanities and is president emeritus of the university.[3] He had been at USC since 1991, as a professor, director of national research centers, dean, provost, and president. He holds faculty appointments in both electrical engineering and the classics[clarification needed], and teaches an undergraduate course on the culture of Athenian democracy.[4]

In May 2018, 200 tenured USC professors demanded Nikias's resignation for how his administration dealt with nearly 300 incidents of sexual assault and sexual misconduct allegations against a longtime student health center gynecologist, George Tyndall, M.D.[5][6][7] He and the board of trustees agreed to an orderly transition to a new president on May 25, 2018, and he stepped down on August 7, 2018.[8][9] Following this, Nikias was named president emeritus and a life trustee of the university.[10]

Early life[edit]

Nikias was born on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus.[11] 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,[12] and the couple have two daughters, Georgiana and Maria.[11] 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.[13] 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.[14] His predecessor as USC president, Steven Sample, was likewise an electrical engineer, and served as president of SUNY-Buffalo from 1982 to 1991.[15]


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.[16]

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.[17] Nikias also established the university's Edward R. Roybal Institute on Aging, Stevens Center for Innovation, U.S.-China Institute,[18] 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.[19] 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 (2010–2018)[edit]

As president, Nikias wrote frequently about a range of nationally significant topics, including the value of—and access to—higher education;[20][21] the future of online education;[22] the continued importance of the arts and humanities; the art of leadership through the classics; and the role of elite research universities, particularly as economic drivers.[23]

In 2011, Nikias announced a $6 billion fundraising campaign, which—at the time of its launch—was the largest in the history of higher education.[24] In six and a half years, USC's campaign has already surpassed the $6 billion mark—18 months ahead of schedule—bringing to the university, on the average, $900 million per year. The fundraising campaign has been extended for five more years until 2021.[25] The Chronicle of Higher Education has called Nikias a "prodigious fundraiser."[26]

Nikias brought the nation's largest literary festival, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, to USC.[27] In addition, under his leadership, the university embarked on a major capital construction initiative that already includes Wallis Annenberg Hall for journalism, the USC Michelson Center for Convergent Bioscience, Dauterive Hall for social sciences, Fertitta Hall for business, the Kaufman International Dance Center, the McKay Center for athletics, Uytengsu Aquatics Center, the Engemann Student Health Center, a new Cinematic Arts building, and the University Club at Stoops, as well as the Soto Building, Currie Residential Hall,[28] and Norris Consultation Center on the Health Sciences Campus, and beautification projects for both of USC's campuses. The most prominent project, though, is the USC Village, a 1.3 million square-foot center of student residential colleges, that opened in 2017, entirely reimagining the university's landscape.[29]

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."[30]


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.[31] 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.


In May 2018, Nikias and the USC board of trustees agreed to an orderly transition to a new president, following a sex abuse scandal regarding USC's student health center's gynecologist and questions[from whom?] about how the university handled it.[32]

Over 200 tenured USC professors called for the resignation of Nikias, saying that he had "lost the moral authority to lead."[33][34] There were concerns over how the university dealt with sexual misconduct allegations against a longtime student health center gynecologist George Tyndall.[35] The allegations are that for decades, Tyndall conducted improper pelvic exams on female students, especially students from China, many of whom were seeing a gynecologist for the first time, and made sexually and racially inappropriate comments.[36]

In a letter to USC's Board of Trustees, a group of faculty members wrote that they had come together to "express our outrage and disappointment over the mounting evidence of President Nikias' failure to protect our students, our staff, and our colleagues from repeated and pervasive sexual harassment and misconduct."[37] In a letter to the USC community, Nikias expressed sympathy and compassion for the students and acknowledged the university community's distress.[38] Before agreeing to step down as president, he presented an in-depth plan for changing the campus culture, revisiting the university's core values, and restructuring the university's operations.[39]

After Nikias stepped down in August 2018, Rick Caruso, chair of the USC board of trustees, said: "As he has always done, Max is taking this action in what he believes to be in the best interest of the university following controversies that have arisen from the unfortunate and unacceptable acts of others. From our investigations, which are not yet completed, we have found absolutely no wrong doing on Max's part."[3]

Awards and honors[edit]

Nikias is a member of the National Academy of Engineering,[40] a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,[41] a charter fellow of the National Academy of Inventors,[42] an associate member of the Academy of Athens, a life fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[43] Among numerous other honors, he has received the IEEE Simon Ramo Medal,[44] an Academic Leadership Award from Carnegie Corporation of New York,[45] the Ellis Island Medal of Honor,[46] the Woodrow Wilson Center's Award for Public Service,[47] UNICEF's Spirit of Compassion Award, as well as the State University of New York at Buffalo's Distinguished Alumni Award and Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Award.[48] He also received honorary doctorates from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion;[49] his alma mater, the National Technical University of Athens;[50] the University of Cyprus;[51] University of Crete; University of Piraeus; and University of Strathclyde.[52] 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,[53] the Los Angeles Police Museum's Jack Webb Award,[54] and earned a commendation for cutting-edge research from the governor of California.[55]

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.[56]


  • Nikias, C. L and Shao, M. Signal processing with alpha-stable distributions and applications. New York: Wiley, c1995. xiii, 168 p. : ill. ; 25 cm. ISBN 0-471-10647-X
  • Nikias, C. L. and Petropulu, A. P. 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. ^ "C. L. Max Nikias Named 11th President of USC". USC News. March 11, 2010. Archived from the original on September 23, 2010. Retrieved September 20, 2010.
  2. ^ "Message from Board of Trustees Chairman Rick J. Caruso (August 7, 2018) - Board of Trustees - USC". boardoftrustees.usc.edu. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Nikias transitions to president emeritus". August 7, 2018.
  4. ^ "USC president's aim in teaching a classics course is to 'light a fire' for humanities".
  5. ^ Korn, Melissa (May 22, 2018). "Hundreds of USC Professors Call for President's Ouster". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved May 23, 2018.
  6. ^ "200 Professors Call for Ouster of U.S.C. President, Citing Lack of 'Moral Authority'". The New York Times. May 22, 2018. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 23, 2018.
  7. ^ "'Just the Grossest Thing': Women Recall Interactions With U.S.C. Doctor". The New York Times. May 17, 2018. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 23, 2018.
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  10. ^ "BoT Chair Communication 080718" (PDF). University of Southern California. 2018. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  11. ^ a b "Profile of USC's next president". Los Angeles Times. March 12, 2010. Retrieved July 21, 2010.
  12. ^ "The Climb of His Life". Trojan Family Magazine. 2003. Archived from the original on October 2, 2013. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  13. ^ "C. L. Max Nikias Biography". usc.edu. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  14. ^ Nikias, Chrysostomos Loizos (1982). A new class of robust spectral estimation algorithms based on minimum covariance recursion error and their application in cardiac data analysis (Ph.D. thesis). State University of New York at Buffalo. Retrieved August 21, 2016.
  15. ^ "About USC – President Emeritus". Retrieved September 27, 2013.
  16. ^ "Cell phone pioneer endows Viterbi School of Engineering". viterbi.usc.edu. Retrieved April 5, 2012.
  17. ^ "USC College to House Shoah Foundation". usc.edu. September 10, 2005. Archived from the original on November 26, 2011. Retrieved April 5, 2012.
  18. ^ Nikias announcement Archived July 14, 2014, at the Wayback Machine of the creation of the USC U.S.-China Institute; Nikias introductory remarks at inaugural USC U.S.-China Institute conference.
  19. ^ "Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative". usc.edu. Archived from the original on August 26, 2010. Retrieved September 20, 2010.
  20. ^ "What will the future of education look like?". World Economic Forum. January 24, 2015. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  21. ^ "Why elite universities should admit more community college grads". Washington Post. October 23, 2014. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  22. ^ "Online Education Revolution – Hype and Reality". usc.edu. October 15, 2013. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  23. ^ "All Roads Lead to Southern California". usc.edu. March 21, 2012. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
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  25. ^ "USC Is Raising Money So Fast, It Just Moved the Goalpost". Retrieved May 2, 2017.
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  27. ^ "Times Festival of Books will move to USC". Los Angeles Times. September 23, 2010. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  28. ^ "Health Sciences Campus getting major revamp".
  29. ^ "USC unveiling plans for $650-million housing, retail complex". Los Angeles Times. September 15, 2014. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  30. ^ "Moments to Savor from the Sports World". The New York Times. November 24, 2010. Retrieved April 5, 2012.
  31. ^ "USC Ming Hsieh Department of Electrical Engineering: Chrysostomos L. Nikias". ee.usc.edu. Retrieved September 20, 2010.
  32. ^ "USC president will step down". Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  33. ^ Korn, Melissa (May 22, 2018). "Hundreds of USC Professors Call for President's Ouster". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  34. ^ Hamilton, Harriet Ryan, Sarah Parvini, Matt. "200 USC professors demand Nikias step down; trustees express 'full confidence' in president". latimes.com. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  35. ^ Ryan, Harriet; Hamilton, Matt (December 13, 2018). "USC trustees back president's ouster of business school dean over handling of harassment cases". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  36. ^ "'Just the Grossest Thing': Women Recall Interactions With U.S.C. Doctor". Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  37. ^ "Faculty Members Call for USC President to Step Down in Wake of Gynecologist Scandal". KTLA. May 22, 2018. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  38. ^ "Message from President Nikias to the USC Community". May 18, 2018.
  39. ^ "USC Action Plan". May 22, 2018.
  40. ^ "Dr. Chrysostomos L. Nikias". NAE Website. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  41. ^ "American Academy of Arts and Sciences Inducts 233rd Class of Members". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved August 19, 2015.
  42. ^ "Search Fellows - National Academy of Inventors". www.academyofinventors.org. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  43. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on July 27, 2014. Retrieved July 20, 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  44. ^ "IEEE Simon Ramo Medal Recipients". www.ieee.org. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  45. ^ "USC President C. L. Max Nikias gets national award with $500,000 for campus". Los Angeles Times. September 24, 2015.
  46. ^ "2016 Ellis Island Medal of Honor Recipients". Archived from the original on June 8, 2016.
  47. ^ "USC President Nikias receives Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service - USC News". news.usc.edu. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  48. ^ "UB Today: Alumni News". Archived from the original on September 28, 2017. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  49. ^ "C.L. Max Nikias, Ph.D., President, University of Southern California, :Received Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from :Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion". Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  50. ^ "Nikiases wrap up Europe trip with warm reception in Athens - USC News". news.usc.edu. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  51. ^ "Chrysostomos L. Max Nikias". KIOS CoE. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
  52. ^ "USC President Nikias receives honorary degree from Scottish university". USC News.
  53. ^ "Viterbi School of Engineering - C. L. Max Nikias". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved August 7, 2018.
  54. ^ "USC President Honored With Jack Webb Award - MyNewsLA.com". September 23, 2014. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  55. ^ "CCST Board Member C. L. Max Nikias". www.ccst.us. Retrieved June 2, 2018.
  56. ^ "Many see a clean slate in Friday's inauguration of USC president". Los Angeles Times. October 14, 2010. Retrieved September 27, 2013.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Steven B. Sample
11th President of the University of Southern California
August 3, 2010–August 7, 2018
Succeeded by
Wanda Austin (interim)