Visionary initiative by Antony Simpson creates major new scholarship

A most generous endowment by Mr Antony Simpson (St Mark’s 1958-62), Honorary Fellow of the College, is creating a very significant new scholarship to support outstanding students who could not otherwise be at St Mark’s.

The A. Simpson & Sons Scholarship will be awarded annually by the College on the basis of excellence in intellect, character, leadership, and service, and to give recipients of the Scholarship the opportunity to attend the College.

The name of the Scholarship refers to the name of the Simpson family company – known for much of its history as “A. Simpson & Son”, famous for its household appliances – and reflects the warm support of Ant Simpson’s own sons, Adam and Mark, for this visionary initiative.

The Scholarship, which may be shared by up to two Scholars, will start with a value of $10,000 per annum (nearly half the College’s annual fee) but is expected to grow in value to enable up to full fees to be covered, where needed. The A. Simpson & Sons Scholarship endowment of $500,000 will be managed to provide for scholarships in perpetuity.

The Scholarship is open both to new and to returning students of the College, regardless of gender, and to students of any discipline.

Applications for the inaugural Simpson Scholarship close at 9am on Tuesday 20 December 2022. Details are on the College website here.

The A. Simpson & Sons Scholarship will be awarded on the basis of:

  • Assessment of excellence in intellect, which will include consideration of academic potential and motivation (as well as achievement to date) and be open to “late bloomers”.
  • Assessment of excellence in character, as reflected in behaviour and motivation, which will include an expectation that the Scholar will show thoughtfulness to others, including an aptitude for bringing others together for the benefit of all, a consistent work ethic, and character in the face of adversity.
  • Assessment of excellence in leadership, which will include an expectation that the Scholar will contribute to their community, be it within their school or the College or the community generally.
  • Assessment of excellence in leadership will also include consideration of the extent to which candidates for the Scholarship are innovative and show an ability to think outside established precedents.
  • Assessment of excellence in service.
  • In the awarding of the Scholarship, no particular regard is to be paid to sporting achievement, contribution or ability.
  • Assessment of the Scholar’s financial circumstances such that, without the benefit of the Scholarship, they would be unable to attend the College.

The names of the A. Simpson & Sons Scholars will be recorded on an honour board in the Junior Common Room.

The Scholarship will be advertised to potential recipients including at high schools in lower socio-economic areas.

Ant Simpson was a resident student at St Mark’s from 1958 to 1962 while studying for a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering degree at the University of Adelaide. He served as Secretary of the College Club in 1962, and also as Grand Alpiner, Co-Captain of Coits, and Keeper of the College Curse. Amongst other notable contributions was his helping to rebuild the College Buick (forerunner of the present Gassie), so that it could make it to Uluru and back.

In the 1962-63 Lion, the College Club President for 1962, Tony Basten, warmly thanked Antony Simpson “for his nimble wit, his skilful handling of the College curse, and his support during the year”.

In an oral history interview a decade ago, Ant Simpson said:

[St Mark’s gave me] self-confidence, an ability to relate to people from different disciplines… [and] the recognition that other people shared the world of things that I enjoyed and that’s carried me through life. I still draw on that to this day.

After graduating, Ant worked as a trainee in the electric motor division of Emerson Electric in St Louis, Missouri, before returning to Australia to take on increasingly senior responsibilities in Simpson Pope Ltd, before returning again to the United States to study for a Masters of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School.

After graduation from Harvard, Ant worked in the New York-based management consulting firm of Cresap, McCormick and Paget, in New York and then Melbourne, before again returning to Adelaide. Here he held a range of company directorships and other positions of leadership in business – for example, as Deputy Chairman of the accounting software packages company, John Neller and Associates (Aust.) Pty Ltd, from 1979 to 1986.

Returning to the family business from 1980 to 1986, Ant applied his significant business acumen and experience as a director and member of the Audit Committee of Simpson Holdings Limited, helping the company – the largest producer in its field – bring about the rationalisation of the white goods industry in Australia. In 1984-85, he worked on a project basis to assist fellow Old Collegian, Dr Craig Mudge, start Austek Microsystems Ltd, a VLSI chip design company in Australia.

Crucially, in 1985-86, Ant Simpson served as Managing Director of Simpson Holdings Ltd prior to its successful sale to Email. During this period, the company returned to profitability and achieved significant increases in market share.

Last year, Ant Simpson’s magnificent history of the family company – Revolution in the Home: The Simpsons of Adelaide 1853-1986: 133 years of manufacturing – was published, with a foreword by Professor Geoffrey Blainey.

Superbly illustrated, this business history brings alive the fascinating story of a family firm, based in Adelaide, which revolutionised domestic life through successive waves of innovations in household appliances. It tells a family story but also a story of Australian manufacturing, of technological and social change, and of broader economic and other forces – including wars, depressions, industrial disputation, and government policies – which helped to shape its context and varying fortunes. Details of the book are here.

Following the sale of Simpson Holdings Ltd in 1986, Ant Simpson held a number of significant directorships – including of Laser Dynamics Ltd and of Austereo Ltd, owner of Australia’s largest network of FM radio stations – and, from 1987 to 1997, was Chairman of Mason and Cox Pty Ltd, the largest private steel foundry in Australia.

Ant Simpson’s technical expertise has also been brought to bear in a variety of other ways – including as a member of CSIRO’s Integrated Manufactured Products Sector Committee, on the Board of Management of the Gartrell School of Mining, Metallurgy and Applied Geology at the University of South Australia, as a member of the Australian Academy of Science’s Science and Industry Forum, and on panels reviewing various Cooperative Research Centres for the Australian government.

For many years Ant served as President of the Waterhouse Club, a network of supporters of the South Australian Museum, and on the Museum’s Advisory Board. In his interest in ocean yachting, he combined exploration of the islands of the western Pacific with providing a facility for research staff from the SA Museum to conduct field work. He has also served on the Advisory Board of the Ian Wark Research Institute, which focuses on the science of particles and surfaces.

Ant Simpson has shared many of these interests with his wife, Mrs Mary Louise Simpson, who has also been very active at the SA Museum, and who is Founder and Chair of the Flinders Ranges Ediacara Foundation. She was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia this year “for service to conservation and the environment, and to the arts”.

Mary Lou Simpson’s father, Archie McArthur, was a resident student at St Mark’s in 1940-41 and 1946-48, and we are most grateful that, in his memory, she has created the Archie McArthur Scholarship to support an engineering student from rural or regional Australia to enter the College each year. Mary Lou is a Benefactor of the College Foundation.

A generous philanthropist supporting several causes, Ant Simpson has over the years assisted many activities at the College, including making a very significant contribution to construction of the East Wing, opened in 2015. The Simpson Tutorial Rooms in the Academic Centre were named to recognise his great generosity.

Already a Governor of the St Mark’s College Foundation, in 2016 Ant Simpson was made an Honorary Fellow of the College.

In his oral history interview for St Mark’s in 2012, when asked for advice to someone starting at St Mark’s now, Ant Simpson replied: “go for it, immerse yourself in College life, give it everything you’ve got”.

Thanks to his extraordinary benefaction, many outstanding young people for generations to come will have the opportunity to do just that.

We are deeply grateful.