Templeton dies at 95; billionaire invested in science, religion
By Chaz Muth
Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Sir John Marks Templeton, a pioneer global investor and founder of the religious equivalent to the Nobel Prizes, died July 8 of pneumonia at Doctors Hospital in Nassau, Bahamas, according to the John Templeton Foundation Web site. He was 95.
Presented annually since 1973 by the John Templeton Foundation, the Templeton Prize for Progress or Discoveries About Spiritual Realities has a value of 1 million British pounds, or more than $1.98 million in U.S. currency at the current exchange rate, making it the world's largest annual monetary award to an individual.
The billionaire established the award in 1972. It's open to living individuals of any major world faith whose achievements have stirred others to deepen their relationship with God.
The first Templeton Prize was awarded to Mother Teresa of Calcutta in 1973, and during the last 35 years many Catholics have followed, including the 2007 winner, Canadian Catholic philosopher Charles Taylor, and the 2008 winner, Msgr. Michal Heller, a Polish priest-cosmologist.
When Templeton announced that he was establishing the award in 1972, the Presbyterian layman told National Catholic News Service -- a precursor to Catholic News Service -- he wanted to give a positive thrust to faith.
"This is not a prize for saintliness, or for material help to God's children," he said in 1972. In years past, he suggested, although "examples could be misleading," men such as St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas or Gen. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, could have been in the running for such a prize.
When Mother Teresa received her prize, it was then $85,000 in U.S. currency. Though the monetary award has changed over the years, Templeton always kept it higher than the Nobel Prize award to underscore "his belief that advances in the spiritual domain are no less important than those in other areas of human endeavor," the foundation Web site said.
In accepting her prize in London in 1973, Mother Teresa called the award "an act of love," and vowed to use the money to continue spreading love and peace in a world of continuing poverty and loneliness.
Born Nov. 29, 1912, in Winchester, Tenn., Templeton graduated from Yale University in 1934. He was named a Rhodes scholar to Balliol College at Oxford University and graduated with a master's degree in law; he became a pioneering global investor and a billionaire. He founded the Templeton Mutual Funds in 1940, renounced his U.S. citizenship in 1968 and moved to the Bahamas. He was knighted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II in 1987 for his many philanthropic accomplishments.
With a lifelong interest in science and business, Templeton vehemently believed that finance and faith could not only commingle, but were strengthened when applied together, he told Insight magazine.
"For one thing, it (finance) enriches the poor more than any other system humanity ever has had," he said. "Competitive business has reduced costs, has increased variety, has improved quality." Businesses that don't operate in an ethical fashion, he added, "will fail, perhaps not right away, but eventually."
Templeton also believed that people of all faiths could learn from one another.
"I have no quarrel with what I learned in the Presbyterian church -- I am still an enthusiastic Christian," he said. "But why shouldn't I try to learn more? Why shouldn't I go to Hindu services? Why shouldn't I go to Muslim services? If you are not egotistical, you will welcome the opportunity to learn more."
Twice widowed, he is survived by two sons, a stepdaughter, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, and is preceded in death by a daughter and a stepson.
Pointing out that billions are spent in the U.S. annually on forward-looking research in natural sciences, Templeton urged philanthropists to put more resources into spiritual research.
"If churches and other people would spend even a fraction of that on spiritual research," he said in 1972, "we might find that God is ready to reveal a little more about himself."
Sir John Templeton, Pioneer Investor and Philanthropist
John Marks Templeton, the pioneer global investor who founded the Templeton Mutual Funds and for the past three decades devoted his fortune to his Foundation's work on the "Big Questions" of science, religion, and human purpose, passed away on July 8, 2008, at Doctors Hospital in Nassau, Bahamas, of pneumonia.
As a pioneer in both financial investments and philanthropy, John Templeton spent a lifetime encouraging open-mindedness. If he hadn't sought new paths, he once said, "he would have been unable to attain so many goals." The motto that Templeton created for his Foundation, "How little we know, how eager to learn," exemplified his philosophy in the financial markets and his groundbreaking methods of philanthropy.
Templeton started his Wall Street career in 1937 and went on to create some of the world's largest and most successful international investment funds. Called by Money magazine "arguably the greatest global stock picker of the century" (January 1999), he sold the Templeton Funds in 1992 to the Franklin Group for $440 million.
A naturalized British citizen who lived in Nassau, the Bahamas, Templeton was created a Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II in 1987 for his many philanthropic accomplishments, including his endowment of the former Oxford Centre for Management Studies as a full college, Templeton College, at the University of Oxford in 1983.
In 1972, he established the world's largest annual award given to an individual, the £1,000,000 Templeton Prize, which is announced in New York and presented in London. The Prize is intended to recognize exemplary achievement in work related to life's spiritual dimension. Its monetary value always exceeds that of the Nobel Prizes—Templeton's way of underscoring his belief that advances in the spiritual domain are no less important than those in other areas of human endeavor.
Templeton contributed a sizable amount of his fortune to the John Templeton Foundation, established in 1987 and based in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. The Foundation currently has an endowment of approximately $1.5 billion and gives out some $70 million in annual grants. The Foundation's mission is to serve as a philanthropic catalyst for research on what scientists and philosophers call the "Big Questions." This vision is derived from Templeton's belief that rigorous research and cutting-edge science are at the heart of human progress.
Most of the Foundation's grant-making supports scientific research at top universities, in such fields as theoretical physics, cosmology, evolutionary biology, cognitive science, and social science relating to love, forgiveness, creativity, purpose, and the nature and origin of religious belief. The Foundation also encourages and supports informed, open-minded dialogue between scientists and theologians as they work on the "Big Questions" in their distinctive fields of inquiry.
Templeton's progressive ideas on finance, faith, and spirituality made him a distinctive figure in both fields, but the soft-spoken Southerner never worried about being an iconoclast. "Rarely does a conservative become a hero of history," he observed in his 1981 book, The Humble Approach, one of more than a dozen books he wrote or edited.
Taking a less-traveled route in investing, Templeton provided advice on how to invest worldwide when Americans rarely considered foreign investment. While standard stock-buying advice is "buy low, sell high," Templeton took the strategy to an extreme, picking nations, industries, and companies hitting rock-bottom, what he called "points of maximum pessimism." When war began in Europe in 1939, he borrowed money to buy 100 shares each in 104 companies selling at one dollar per share or less, including 34 companies that were in bankruptcy. Only four turned out to be worthless, and he turned large profits on the others after holding each for an average of four years.
After beginning his career on Wall Street in 1937, Templeton bought a small investment advisory concern in 1940 that became Templeton, Dobbrow and Vance, Inc. He entered the mutual fund industry in 1954 when he established the Templeton Growth Fund.
In 1956 Templeton joined with marketing consultant William Damroth to launch the Nucleonics, Chemistry, and Electronics Fund, a specialty fund that reflected Templeton's lifelong interest in science and technology. With investor interest in specialty funds rising in the late 1950s, Templeton Damroth's new fund grew dramatically. Hoping to raise capital to finance more growth, Templeton then made a bold move to accelerate his company's growth.
In this era, mutual fund management companies rarely became public corporations. As a result, they were denied access to the public markets to raise capital to grow. A series of court decisions during the late 1950s, however, had clarified the provisions of the Investment Company Act of 1940 and upheld the right of fund management companies to "go public." With five funds under management and total net investments of over $66 million in 1959, John Templeton seized the opportunity to raise capital, and Templeton Damroth joined a sudden surge of fund firms that went public at this time.
Templeton sold his stake in Templeton Damroth in 1962, and over the next three decades created some of the world's largest and most successful international investment funds. Each $10,000 invested in the Templeton Growth Fund Class A in 1954, with dividends reinvested, would have grown to $2 million by 1992 when Sir John sold the Templeton Growth Fund. This translates into an annualized return of 14.5% since inception.
During a career that included directorships on banks, businesses, and insurance companies, Templeton maintained a long association with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He was a trustee on the board of Princeton Theological Seminary, the largest Presbyterian seminary, for 42 years and served as its chair for 12 years. He also lent his business acumen to the Presbyterians' ministerial pension fund for more than three decades until 1993.
Templeton was known for starting his mutual fund's annual meetings with a prayer. He explained that the devotional words were not pleas for financial gain in the mundane world, but rather meditations to calm and clear the minds of managers and stockholders. Templeton often told interviewers that "competitive business," in his view, matched in many ways the compassionate aims of religious bodies. "For one thing, it enriches the poor more than any other system humanity ever has had," he once told Insight magazine. "Competitive business has reduced costs, has increased variety, has improved quality." And if a business is not ethical, he added, "it will fail, perhaps not right away, but eventually."
Although he was a Presbyterian elder active in his denomination and served on the board of the American Bible Society, Templeton espoused what he called a "humble approach" to theology. Declaring that relatively little is known about God through scripture and present-day theology, he once predicted that "scientific revelations may be a gold mine for revitalizing religion in the 21st century."
Templeton took a broad view of spirituality and ethics. He was influenced by the Unity School of Christianity, a movement that espouses a non-literal view of heaven and hell and a shared divinity between God and humanity. As he wrote, "We realize that our own divinity arises from something more than merely being 'God's children' or being 'made in his image.'" Templeton did not claim to be a theologian, but he was determined to support the work of those who might deepen our "knowledge and love of God."
The annual Templeton Prize grew out of the philanthropist's belief that an honor equivalent to a Nobel Prize should be bestowed on living innovators in spiritual action and thought. Mother Teresa of Calcutta was the first Templeton Prize Laureate in 1973, followed later that decade by the evangelist Billy Graham and the writer Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. In recent years, the Prize has been awarded primarily to physicists, cosmologists, and philosophers, including Freeman Dyson, Paul Davies, Ian Barbour, John Polkinghorne, George Ellis, Charles Townes, John Barrow, Charles Taylor, and Michael Heller. Representatives of all of the world's major religions have been on the panel of nine judges throughout the prize's history, and recipients have included Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus.
John M. Templeton was born Nov. 29, 1912, in the small town of Winchester, Tennessee. He followed in his brother's footsteps and attended Yale University, supporting himself during the Depression and graduating in 1934 near the top of his class. He was named a Rhodes Scholar to Balliol College at Oxford, from which he graduated with an M.A. degree in law. He married the former Judith Folk in 1937, and the couple had three children — John, Anne and Christopher. She died in February 1951. He married Irene Reynolds Butler seven years later on New Year's Eve 1958. She passed away in 1993 after 35 years of marriage.
John Templeton is survived by his son John M. Templeton, Jr., known as Jack, who retired as a pediatric surgeon in 1995 to become president of the John Templeton Foundation, his son Christopher, stepdaughter Wendy Brooks, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His daughter, Anne Templeton Zimmerman, died in 2004 and his stepson, Malcolm Butler, died in 1995.
A private ceremony is planned for family members in the Bahamas. There will be a memorial service at Princeton University Chapel on November 21, 2008 at 2pm.
The Templeton Family recommends that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made in memory of Sir John Templeton to the Lyford Cay Foundation, Inc., for the Sir John Templeton Memorial Scholarships. For more information, please click here.
The Templeton Family welcomes written (not email) letters, on institutional letterhead or personal cards, from those who wish to share their condolences with the family and tell them how they have been positively affected by Sir John or how they feel Sir John's philanthropy has affected the world. The letters will be compiled and shared with the family and future generations.
Please mail your letter to:
Dr. John M. Templeton, Jr., President
John Templeton Foundation
300 Conshohocken State Road, Suite 500
West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania USA 19428
Sir John M. Templeton, Philanthropist, Dies at 95
By ROBERT D. McFADDEN
Published: July 9, 2008 for The New York Times
Sir John M. Templeton, a Tennessee-born investor and philanthropist who amassed a fortune in global stocks and gave away hundreds of millions of dollars to foster understanding in what he called “spiritual realities,” died on Tuesday in Nassau, the Bahamas, where he had lived for decades. He was 95.
His death, at Doctors Hospital in Nassau, was caused by pneumonia, said Don Lehr, a spokesman for the Templeton Foundation.
The foundation awards the Templeton Prize, one of the world’s richest, and sponsors conferences and studies reflecting the founder’s passionate interest in “progress in religion” and “research or discoveries” on the nebulous borders of science and religion.
In a career that spanned seven decades, Sir John dazzled Wall Street, organized some of the most successful mutual funds of his time, led investors into foreign markets, established charities that now give away $70 million a year, wrote books on finance and spirituality and promoted a search for answers to what he called the “Big Questions” — realms of science, faith, God and the purpose of humanity.
Along the way, he became one of the world’s richest men, gave up American citizenship, moved to the Bahamas, was knighted by the Queen of England and bestowed much of his fortune on spiritual thinkers and innovators: Mother Teresa, Billy Graham, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, the physicist Freeman Dyson, the philosopher Charles Taylor and a pantheon of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus.
Inevitably, the Templeton charities engendered controversy. Critics called his “spiritual realities” a contradiction in terms, reflecting a fundamental incompatibility between science and religion. To many, the very idea of “progress” in religion seemed strange, and giving grants for “discoveries” in the field invited accusations that science was being manipulated to promote religion.
But Sir John was unmoved. A Yale graduate, a Rhodes Scholar, an audacious investor, a Presbyterian who preached open-mindedness and eschewed literal interpretations of Scripture, Sir John — who began annual meetings with prayers, he said, to clear the minds of shareholders — made billions as a pioneer in his globally diversified Templeton funds, often taking the old advice, “buy low, sell high,” to extremes.
In 1939, when World War II began in Europe, the 26-year-old investor borrowed $10,000 and bought 100 shares each in 104 companies that were selling at $1 a share or less, including 34 in bankruptcy. A few years later, he made large profits on 100 of the companies; four turned out to be worthless.
In 1940, he bought a small investment firm that became Templeton, Dubbrow and Vance, the early foundation of his empire. Sir John embarked on mutual funds in 1954, establishing the Templeton Growth Fund in Canada to cut the taxes of many shareholders — Canada then had no capital gains tax — and to emphasize the global reach of its investment strategy.
As investor interest widened in the 1950s, he started funds specializing in nuclear energy, chemicals, electronics and technology. In 1959, with five funds and $66 million under management, he joined a surge of funds going public. Growth was dramatic. The flagship Templeton Growth Fund reported a 14.5 percent average annual return from 1954 to 1992; a $10,000 investment, with dividends reinvested, would have grown to $2 million.
Sir John sold the Templeton family of funds — scores of them with $13 billion in assets — in 1992, and turned to philanthropies that had engaged him for decades. While he was an elder of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), he took a broad view of spirituality, espousing non-literal views of heaven and hell and a shared divinity between humanity and God.
Contending that almost nothing of God was actually “known” through Scriptures and theology, he founded the Templeton Prize in 1972 to foster “progress in religion” — an idea that included philosophy and exemplary conduct relating to love, gratitude, forgiveness and creativity. He called it an effort to redress the fact that no Nobel Prize was given for religion.
Its first recipient, in 1973, was Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who received $85,000 for her charities. In the 35 years since, the prize, given in London, has grown to $1.6 million. And the criterion for it has been refined in recent years to encompass “progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities.”
The Templeton Foundation, based in West Conshohocken, Pa., was established in 1987 to administer the prize and promote “projects to apply scientific methodology to the study of religious subjects,” with room for theoretical physics, evolutionary biology, cognitive science and researches into love, human purpose and the nature and origin of religious beliefs. Today, with a $1.5 billion endowment, it largely sustains the controversial modern movement to reconcile science and religion.
Foundation projects have included a multimillion-dollar study of forgiveness, and a two-year study to demonstrate the effect of prayer on 600 patients about to undergo surgery.
Many critics contend that reconciling science and religion is not possible, and that studies to that end are naïve, quixotic or motivated by a desire to put religious beliefs on an equal footing with scientific knowledge.
But others defend the foundation’s approach, insisting that science has no monopoly on truth and that religion and science can cooperate productively.
“We have somehow to break down the barriers between our contemporary culture of science and disciplined academic study” and “the domain of the spirit,” Charles Taylor said in accepting the prize in 2007.
John Marks Templeton was born on Nov. 29, 1912, in Winchester, a small Tennessee town 60 miles from Dayton, the scene of the 1925 Scopes “monkey trial” pitting Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan in a battle over the theory of evolution versus fundamentalist views of the Creation. The boy was only 12 then, but issues in the case dominated his later life; he wrote at least eight books on spiritual matters.
He was raised in a devout household and was the first student in town to go to college. Supporting himself at Yale in the Depression, he graduated near the top of his class in 1934, won a Rhodes Scholarship to Balliol College at Oxford University and earned a master’s degree in law. He began his Wall Street career in 1937.
That year, he married the former Judith Folk. The couple had three children. His wife died in 1951. In 1958, he married Irene Reynolds Butler, who died in 1993. His daughter, Anne Templeton Zimmerman, died in 2005, and a stepson, Malcolm Butler, died in 1995. He is survived by two sons from his first marriage, John M. Jr., of Bryn Mawr, Pa., a retired surgeon and the chairman and president of the Templeton Foundation, and Christopher, of Colfax, Iowa; a stepdaughter, Wendy Brooks, of Delray Beach, Fla., and three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Among his many gifts was the 1984 endowment of Templeton College, a business and management school at Oxford. In 1987, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his philanthropies. After many years on Wall Street, he renounced his American citizenship in the 1960s, became a British subject and moved to the Bahamas, a Commonwealth nation that has long been a tax haven.
Sir John said his investment record improved after he distanced himself from Wall Street and no longer worried about the tax consequences of his decisions. He was an early investor in Japan in the 1960’s and later in Russia, China and other Asian markets. He sold large holdings before the technology bubble burst in 2000, and warned several years ago that real estate prices were dangerously high.
In Nassau, his net worth swelled into the billions, but his lifestyle remained relatively modest. He drove his own car and spent his days reading, writing and managing his foundation. Visitors were given sandwiches, tea and courtly advice in the afternoon at his white-columned antebellum home on Lyford Cay, set on a hillside lush with citrus trees and bougainvillea, overlooking a golf course and the ocean.