Articles: Sir John Templeton
American Inspirations Award
The Presidential Prayer Team, Inc
Sir John Templeton
Founder, John Templeton Foundation,
Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion
“Whatever you do in life—whether you get married, bring a case to a law court, operate on a child, or buy a stock—you should open with prayer. And that prayer should be that God will use you as a clear channel for His wisdom and His love.”
Sir John Templeton’s life is marked by his uncanny ability to accumulate a vast amount of wealth. But more significant has been his passion to pursue spiritual wealth. His desire for spiritual insight stands out as one who has chosen to use his great wealth to help others and to further knowledge and research about God.
John Marks Templeton was born in Winchester, Tennessee on November 29th,1912. Groundwork was laid early on for the humility that has come to characterize his life. He was the first boy from his small town to attend Yale University. He sold magazine subscriptions during the Great Depression to help pay for college. In the process, learned of the value of hard work. He was honored as Rhodes Scholar and attended Oxford, where he later built the business college that was named after him.
It was while he was attending college that Templeton became interested in investing. He also realized that he had a great talent for predicting which stocks would be successful. Templeton explains it this way: “At Yale I seemed to have better judgment than other students in terms of good investments, so I studied economics.” It was also as he began to study finance that he began to take a new approach to selecting his stocks. He began diversifying his portfolio, opting for foreign investments as well as domestic investments. He invested in companies, industries or nations whose value had seriously dropped, or, as he put it, had reached a “point of maximum pessimism.” This ideology was very unorthodox for its time. It was this tendency to go against the flow that would come to mark the life and success of Sir John Templeton.
In the summer after he graduated from Oxford, Templeton and a Yale classmate set out on a seven-month trip through thirty-five countries. During this trip, John began to learn the value of thrifty living, having spent only ninety pounds (British) on the entire trip! The two traveled through northern Europe, with a six-day stop in Berlin to take in the 1936 Olympic Games, then to Hungary and Austria. They visited Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Greece. They went through the Middle East and eventually to India, China and Japan. While they were in the Middle East, they decided, as James and John, to visit each location where the biblical James and John are mentioned.
Templeton was raised as a Presbyterian in Tennessee and later served as an elder in his church. He has also sat on the board of Princeton Theological Seminary and the American Bible Society. His time on the board of Princeton, the largest Presbyterian seminary, stretched over a period of 42 years. For 12 of those years he served as its chair.
In 1937 Templeton first went to Wall Street to begin his career, in spite of the fact that the nation was immersed in the Great Depression. He began his own fund management company and in 1954, he founded the Templeton Growth Fund. It was this fund that especially helped establish Templeton’s legacy as an immensely successful investor with a worldwide scope.
While Templeton’s assets continued to grow, his care and concern for others grew as well--a product of his passion for living a humble life. To this day, Templeton supports more than one hundred programs from all over the world in the areas of science and religion, spirituality and health, character development and the benefits of freedom and free competition. He regularly gives to charitable and philanthropic efforts twenty times as much as he spends on himself. In 1987 Templeton was knighted by the Queen of England for his philanthropic efforts.
Sir John has put his vast wealth to work for good through the establishment of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. The award was first bestowed upon the late Mother Teresa in 1973 and grants an unprecedented $1 million to the awardee, more than the Nobel Prize awards. The Templeton prize seeks to reward those who are working for a greater understanding of divinity. Past recipients of the Templeton Prize include Dr. Billy Graham, Dr. Bill Bright and Charles W. Colson.
If Templeton’s life has been characterized by the habit of using his wealth to benefit others, it has also been marked by a distinct priority on prayer. Speaking of his practices of prayer, he reports:
We start all of our meetings, including our shareholders meetings and our directors meeting, with prayer. If you start meetings with prayer, the meetings are more fruitful and more productive--you reach decisions that are more likely to help everybody concerned. There is less controversy if you begin a meeting with prayer. Or, as I like to say, ‘Prayer helps you to think more clearly.’”
Templeton has often spoken of his belief in the power of prayer, noting that there has never been a civilization that didn’t pray. He also notes that 94 percent of Americans today pray. And yet, he wonders why there have been so few studies done on the power of prayer. This is the type of research that the Templeton Foundation is actively involved in. Templeton-backed research revealed that “people who go to church an average of once a week live seven years longer than the ones who don't. Also they are hospitalized 25 percent less, and when they do go to the hospital they get out 25 percent quicker.”
These findings are startling, to say the least, but are confirmation of the tremendous power of prayer and of Templeton’s passion to disseminate scientific information about prayer. The foundation has funded research on prayer’s power to heal as well as the positive benefits of forgiveness on physical health. As he continues to research science and religion, Templeton encourages us all to keep prayer central:
Whatever you do in life--whether you get married, bring a case to a law court, operate on a child, or buy a stock--you should open with prayer. And that prayer should be that God will use you as a clear channel for His wisdom and His love. You should open with prayer that every thought in your mind and every word and action that is taken will be in tune with what is right in God’s purposes, and for the benefit of all God’s children and not just a selfish goal.
John married Judith Dudley Folk in 1937 after a secret engagement. She was a Wellesley College student who John knew in Tennessee. The two were married until Judith died in a tragic accident in 1951. To cope with the grief of this terrible tragedy, John drew upon his large spiritual resources and also accepted a position on the Board of Trustees of Princeton Theological Seminary.
Templeton and his wife Judith had three children, John Jr., Anne Dudley and Christopher Winston. He was remarried several years later to Irene Butler. They would remain married for 35 years until she passed away in 1993. Sir John’s life has also been blessed with several grandchildren.
At age 90, Sir John Templeton continues to pursue opportunities to use his wealth to help others and to encourage prayer. For his reliance on prayer as a guide for life and for his steadfast devotion to using his wealth to pursue philanthropic endeavors, The Presidential Prayer Team is pleased to award:
Sir John Marks Templeton
American Inspirations Award Recipient for July 2003