LOS ANGELES — University of Southern California president C. L. Max Nikias stepped down Tuesday in the wake of a sex-abuse scandal involving a campus gynecologist in which school administrators faced criticism they ignored decades of complaints.
Nikias, who had been president since 2010, agreed to relinquish his role ‘‘effective immediately’’ but becomes president emeritus and a life trustee of the school, according to a letter to faculty, students and alumni from board of trustees chairman Rick J. Caruso.
Trustees hope to find his successor within four to six months, Caruso said.
Wanda M. Austin, who is a board member, was appointed interim president.
‘‘She is a professional of impeccable integrity and character,’’ Caruso wrote.
Austin holds a USC engineering degree and was president and CEO of her own company, The Aerospace Corp. She is a former member of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology and currently is on the boards of Chevron and Amgen, according to Caruso.
Austin is ‘‘a strong advocate for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines as well as for minorities and women,’’ he wrote.
Nikias, 65, agreed in May to step down at an unspecified date. He and the school faced accusations that they ignored complaints against Dr. George Tyndall, a gynecologist who worked at a university clinic for 30 years.
Tyndall, who has since retired, is the focus of some two dozen lawsuits. They allege he made crude comments, took inappropriate photos, and forced plaintiffs to strip naked and groped them under the guise of medical treatment.