Geoffrey Neilson Fund

Geoffrey Neilson


The children of the Foundation’s first Chairman, Geoff Neilson, established this fund to honour his contribution to the Geelong community.

Dr Heather Neilson is a Senior Lecturer in English and Media Studies at UNSW Canberra. She is married to a fellow academic and is the mother of Geoff’s grandson, Quinn. Timothy Neilson is a commercial lawyer and special counsel at Greenwoods & Herbert Smith Freehills, specialising in taxation. Susan Neilson and her husband are retired, however Susan remains actively involved in performing and visual arts around Melbourne.

Mr Donald Geoffrey (Geoff) Neilson was born on the 12th of November 1929 and passed away on the 5th of May 2018 at the age of 88 years.

In 1998, Geoff was asked to meet with Peter Morgan, Chairman, and Gail Rodgers, Executive Director, of United Way Geelong (now called Give Where You Live). At the meeting, Geoff was asked if he would chair a meeting of Geelong citizens to consider whether a community foundation would be likely to succeed in this region.

Geoff agreed to chair a meeting. In preparation for the Community Meeting, Geoff asked some selected citizens with whom he had worked in a variety of positions to form a steering committee. Part of the role of the steering committee was to canvass views about the likely viability of a community foundation. Reports of these conversations indicated a range of opinions ranging from opposition (mainly on grounds that it would harm United Way) to indifference, to enthusiastic support.

It was resolved to hold a community meeting, convened by the Mayor, Ken Jarvis, in the Council Room at the City Hall. About 30 people attended. Hayden Raysmith, Chairman of the Melbourne Community Foundation spoke and offered his support if Geelong decided to go ahead. Ken Jarvis spoke in favour of launching a Geelong foundation. A show of hands indicated almost unanimous approval.

Geoff had the task of seeking out potential Board members to form the inaugural board of the Foundation and to search for a part-time Executive Officer.

The first Board meeting was held at Day Neilson, on the 15th of December 1999. Geoff was elected Chairman, and Richard Annois Deputy Chairman. Andrew Lawson was appointed Secretary and Public Officer.
During the development phase of the Foundation, Geoff had been thinking of a potential founding donor. Geoff approached one of his clients, Mr Ken Stott, who showed interest and provided the founding contribution of $2 million. Over the next few years, Ken donated several million dollars more.

Geoff continued as Chair until 2005 and as a Board member until 2012.

Geoff played a very important role in the Geelong community and was involved with many philanthropic and not-for-profit organisations. He was always approachable, always interested in people, always supportive, and always dealt with matters in confidence when required.

Geoff’s involvement in the Geelong Community Foundation is best summed up in the words of our Founding Board member, Val Lawrence: “Without Geoff’s wisdom, drive and enthusiasm, the Foundation would never have become the successful and respected Foundation that assists so many charities in our Geelong region.”

Geoff will be sadly missed in many circles in the Geelong community.

The Board of the Geelong Community Foundation thank Geoff for his committed service to the Geelong Community Foundation and extend their sympathy to members of the Neilson Family.

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