BGS Old Boy ’65 Neil Summerson was last week awarded a Member of the Order of Australia for significant service to the finance, commerce and business sectors, to the arts, and to the community.
Mr Summerson said he was proud of the achievement but a little embarrassed by the attention. “I’ve never been one to look for accolades, but it’s good to know you’ve made a worthwhile contribution to help others around Australia,” he said. “Since our 20s my wife and I were interested in giving back to the community and have always enjoyed it. You get out of life what you put in.”
Presented with the AM honour as part of the Australia Day awards, the former president of the BGS Old Boys’ Association and long-time chartered accountant has spent much of his life giving his time and expertise to further arts, education and charitable organisations. After serving as chairman, director, president or treasurer for more than 20 businesses and boards over more than four decades, selecting the highlights was no easy task.
Mr Summerson singled out his position as chairman of the Queensland branch of the Institute of Chartered Accountants as one of his standout achievements. “To be able to lead your professional association and serve on the national board, that is a highlight for me,” he said. Other major career achievements include serving as managing partner of Ernst & Young in the 1990s, and as the Bank of Queensland chairman from 2008 to 2013, leading BOQ through the Global Financial Crisis.
As treasurer of the Queensland Ballet Company from 1979 to 1993, Mr Summerson helped turn the struggling arts company into a success, paving the way for it to reach the heights it has today. He also chaired a committee that worked with the Lord Mayor to establish the Museum of Brisbane.
Mr Summerson was co-founder of InTouch, an organisation that helped quadriplegics and paraplegics. It was eventually sold to Spinal Life Australia, with the proceeds able to do great work for those living with spinal injuries in Queensland. His list of charitable achievements goes on, including working with the Cancer Research Foundation, St Andrew’s Hospital, and the Queensland University of Technology Foundation.
In 2016 he is “trying to retire”, but still chairs and sits on the board of a number of companies.