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NEILSON, Donald Geoffrey AM (1929-2018)

NEILSON, Dr Donald Geoffrey AM (1929-2018)

Geoff Neilson (Davey Album)

Geoff Neilson (Davey Album)

Few individuals have had such an enormous impact on education in Geelong as Geoff Neilson. Not only was he a respected leader in business and the community his passion for education coupled with his astute financial management was highly valued in the development of Deakin University, The Geelong College, Marcus Oldham College and Morongo Presbyterian Girls College.

Geoff Neilson, the son of Donald Ferguson Neilson and Grace Elizabeth nee Barber, was a day student at the Geelong College from 1935 to 1947, a member of both the 1st Cricket XI and 1st Football XVIII in 1946 and 1947, School Athletics Captain 1947, and winner of the Dr Gus Kearney Memorial Prize. In 1947, he was House Captain of Morrison House and a School Prefect. Soon after leaving School he became treasurer of the OGCA, later Secretary and President. He has been a member of the College Council from 1960 to 1980 and its Chairman from 1978-1980. He was also the President of the Geelong College Foundation from 1990 to 1993. In 2003, he completed a manuscript history of the Old Geelong Collegians' Association (OGCA) which he entitled, Fun, Fellowship and Fund Raising: A Brief History of the Old Geelong Collegians' Association.

His dedication and contribution to Geelong College was recognised when he was elected a Fellow of the OGCA and in December, 2003 when he was appointed a Life Governor of the Geelong College. An annually awarded academic prize is named in honour of Geoff Nielson: The D Geoffrey Neilson Prize for Accounting. The Geoffrey Neilson Prize for outstanding academic performance in Year 11 was also funded by the Neilson Family. Geoff Neilson's portrait, an oil painting by Robert Hannaford painted in 1989, is on display in the Geelong College Senior School Dining Hall.

Geoff began his accountancy career ‘as a junior clerk in his father’s and uncle’s accountancy firm, Nielson and Nielson, in 1948. He studied for the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia examinations with the Hemingway Robertson Institute going on to win the Victorian Intermediate Prize in 1949. In 1952, he completed his exams. Geoff also gained second place in Victoria and first place in Victoria in intermediate auditing. He then completed the Institute of Chartered Secretaries examinations.

Geoff’s father died in July 1953 and six years later, his uncle died, leaving Geoff the sole partner of the firm until 1962, when he decided to merge his business with Howard Day, Glyn Jenkins, and Graham Johns. In 1955, he married Glenda Elizabeth Moyle.

In the early 1960s, Geoff became interested in farm accountancy, attending a short course at the University of New England and becoming a member of the Australian Committee for Coding Rural Accounts, and presenting papers on the subject at several conferences. He followed this up by writing the third edition of the Law Book Company’s title Principles and Practice of Farm Management Accounting. He has been strongly involved in both the Victorian and National Institutes of Chartered Accountants. He became a member of the National Council in 1977, elected to the Executive in 1978, and elected president in 1980-81. He has also represented the two major Australian accounting bodies on the executive committee of the Conference of Asian and Pacific Accountants and the Institute of the Victorian Council of Professions.

His community involvement is considerable. He has been a member of the Council of Deakin University and secretary to the Councils of Morongo Girls’ College and Marcus Oldham Farm Management College. At Marcus Oldham, Geoff was Secretary to Council from 1961 to 2012. He was a guest lecturer for 39 years and was honoured with an honorary degree in 2005 and the naming of the Donald Geoffrey Neilson AM Administration Building in 2012.

Appointed to membership of the Interim Council of Deakin University in 1975 Geoff became a member of the University Council when it was formally constituted on 1 Jan 1978, serving until 31 December 1981. He was again elected to membership of the Council in December 1983 and remained a member until his retirement on 31 December 1998. Geoff was also Deputy Chancellor of Deakin University from 1996 to 1998. In May 1999, Deakin University conferred on Geoff the honorary degree of Doctor of the University for distinguished service to the University as a member of the University Council.

Geoff is a past President of Geelong YMCA from 1966 to 1968 and the Rotary Club of Geelong 1971 to 1972 and the first chairman of the Geelong Business Awards in 1984. From 1994 to 2013 he was a Board Member of the Geelong Chamber of Commerce and was elected a Life Member of the Chamber. In 1985, he was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to accountancy and a Knight of the Sovereign of St John in 1995 for service to the community. He was elected Victorian Chairman of The Order of Australia Association from 2006 to 2008.

Geoff Neilson died on 5 May 2018.

Geoff Neilson, Life Governor of Council, 2004.

Geoff Neilson,
Life Governor of Council, 2004.

Geoff Neilson in the Senior School Dining Hall

Geoff Neilson in the Senior School Dining Hall

Geoff Neilson. Portrait by Robert Hannaford, 1989

Geoff Neilson.
Portrait by Robert Hannaford, 1989

Geoff Neilson (Cricket 1947).

Geoff Neilson (Cricket 1947).

Geoff's father, Mr D F Neilson also had a significant role in the early years of the Morongo Presbyterian Girls' College and the Neilson Library opened in 1973 by Lady Darling, wife of Sir James Darling recognized his work. D F Neilson was council secretary when the school was established.

Sources: Ad Astra September 1990 p12; Geelong Advertiser 22 August 1998; Geelong Advertiser 19 June 1999; Geelong Business News Dec 1999 p39; Geelong Advertiser 7 May 2018. OGC 1942.
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