Life and Legacy

Introduction

John M. Templeton was born Nov. 29, 1912, in the small town of Winchester, Tennessee. Blessed with parents who encouraged freedom, the power of prayer, and the exploration of new ideas, Templeton also acquired the ideals of thrift, discipline, and self-sufficiency. An exceptional student, John graduated first in his high school class and was the first in his town to attend college. And not just any college, either; the teenager set his sights on one of the most challenging educational institutions in the country—Yale University. Unfortunately, the Depression took its toll on the family’s finances, so the young man tapped into his innate entrepreneurial spirit and determination to pay for tuition, board, and books to complete his college education. Again, his work ethic and focus paid off. Templeton graduated first in his college class. He was named a Rhodes scholar to Balliol College at Oxford from which he graduated with a M.A. degree in law. He married the former Judith Folk in 1937 and the couple had three children—John, Anne, and Christopher. Judith died in February, 1951. He married Irene Reynolds Butler seven years later on New Year’s Eve. Irene passed away in 1993 after 35 years of marriage. John Marks Templeton passed away on July 8, 2008, at Doctors Hospital in Nassau, Bahamas.

Sir John, the Investor

Standard stock-buying advice is “buy low, sell high.” But Templeton took the strategy to an extreme—picking nations, industries and companies hitting rock-bottom “points of maximum pessimism,” as he put it. When war began in Europe in 1939, he borrowed money to buy 100 shares in each of 104 companies selling at $1 a 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 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.

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.

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.

How Little We Know, How Eager to Learn

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 awards millions of dollars 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.

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.

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 an embrace of calmness and clear thinking. 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.”

1912: Born in Winchester, Tennessee.

1934: Graduated from Yale University.

1936: Received M.A. from Balliol College, Oxford.

1937: Went to work on Wall Street.

1937: Married Judith Folk; their three children are John Jr., Anne, and Christopher.

1940: Opened his own fund management company.

1940: Son John Jr. is born.

1942: Daughter Anne is born.

1947: Son Christopher is born.

1951: Wife Judith dies.

1954: Started Templeton Growth Fund.

1958: Married Irene Butler on New Year’s Eve.

1968: Moved his permanent residence to Lyford Cay, Nassau, the British Bahamas. In the same year he renounced his U.S. citizenship and became a subject of the British Crown.

1972: Established the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities.

1973: Mother Teresa of Calcutta is the first to win the prize.

1987: Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II.

1987: Founded the John Templeton Foundation.

1992: Sold Templeton Growth Funds to Franklin Group.

1993: Irene, his wife of 35 years, dies.

1994: Retired from the board of Princetons Theological Seminary after 42 years and 12 years as its chairman.

1995: His son, Dr. John Templeton, Jr. becomes President of the John Templeton Foundation.

2001: John Templeton Foundation funds more than 245 initiatives in the areas of science, religion, character development and freedom.

2002: Sir John celebrates his 90th birthday.

2004: Anne Templeton Zimmerman, daughter of Sir John, dies December 16, 2004

2005: Spiritual Information, a collection of one hundred essays, is published in honor of Sir John.

2006: Sir John appoints his son, John M. Templeton Jr., M.D. to be Chairman of the John Templeton Foundation.

2008: Sir John dies at age 95 on July 8, 2008, at Doctors Hospital in Nassau, Bahamas, of pneumonia

On Life and Spirituality

“The main focus in my life now is to open people’s minds so no one will be so conceited that they think they have the total truth. They should be eager to learn, to listen, to research and not to confine, to hurt, to kill, those who disagree with them.”

“I wouldn’t call it radical; I would call it enthusiasm for progress,” the philanthropist says of his approach.

“I served for 42 years on the board of trustees of the largest Presbyterian seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary, and we had brilliant people — teachers and students both—but they did not come up with many new concepts. They weren’t invited to come up with new concepts. Anybody who had come up with a new concept would have been under suspicion for being out of step with the tradition or out of step with the teachings of the church.”

“Suppose you went to your priest and asked for help; he would refer you to the Bible. But if you went the next day to your medical doctor and he referred you to the book of Hippocrates, which was written at about the same time as the Bible, you would think that was old-fashioned.”

“I’m really convinced that our descendants a century or two from now will look back at us with the same pity that we have toward the people in the field of science two centuries ago.”

“Three of my children are medical doctors; they know at least a hundred times as much about your body as my grandfather knew, but they don’t know much more about soul than he did.”

“I have no quarrel with what I learned in the Presbyterian church — I am still an enthusiastic Christian. 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.”

“We hope that there will be nothing that conflicts with anybody’s religion or faith. We would never say a person’s religion is not effective. We say, ‘Would you be interested in something more effective?’ We always put things in an optimistic, progressive perspective. Do you want to make your prayers more effective? Not that they are not effective, but do you want to help them become more effective?’”

“Work at being a humble person.”

“If we become increasingly humble about how little we know, we may be more eager to search.”

“A doctor today would never prescribe the treatments my grandfather used in the Confederate Army, but a minister says pretty much the same thing today that a minister would have said back then.”

“…Making people get over the concept that they’ve got the total proof. To get them to feel, ‘Gee, I want to learn more. I want to hear anybody who can tell me something in addition to ways I already know about God or my spiritual principles.”

“We may find the Divine to be 3,000 times what we think it is now. It’s like asking the tulip there to explain you. The tulip is a beautiful creation, with millions of atoms cooperating with each other to produce great beauty, but ask that tulip to talk about you, and it can’t do it. It doesn’t have those perceptive abilities. Wouldn’t it be conceited to suggest that I had the abilities to describe the deity?”

“The correct description is that we try every day to become more humble when we talk about divinity, we try to realize how little we know and how open minded we should be. It’s self centered to think that human beings, as limited as we are, can describe divinity.”

“I thought, I’m only going to be on this planet once, and only for a short time. What can I do with my life that will lead to permanent benefits?”

“I focus on spiritual wealth now, and I’m busier, more enthusiastic, and more joyful than I have ever been.”

“Tell your readers to use it or lose it. If you don’t use your muscles, they get weak. If you don’t use your mind it begins to fail.”

“The objective of our religious foundations is to teach people that they are hurting themselves when they say they believe something. What we should realize is we know almost nothing about God and therefore we should be eager to search and to learn.”

“A flower is a miracle, but it does not have the sight or speech to describe us. And our own ability is no greater than that flower when we try to describe God. His infinity covers not only one planet, but the entire solar system and 100 billion suns. That doesn’t mean he is limited in his ability to be part of you. ”

“Let’s worship Divinity, but understand the divinity we worship is beyond our comprehension.”

“I believe all religions are becoming obsolete, clinging to ancient concepts.”

“The idea that an individual can find God is terribly self-centered. It is like a wave thinking it can find the sea.”

“The question is not is there a God, but is there anything else except God? God is everyone and each of us is a little bit.”

“Anybody who had come up with a new concept would have been under suspicion for being out of step with the tradition or out of step with the teachings of the church.”

“It’s self-centered to think that human beings, as limited as we are, can describe divinity.”

“If you are not egotistical, you will welcome the opportunity to learn more.”

“Only one thing is more important than learning from experience, and that is not learning from experience.”

On Finance

“Before this century is over, the Dow Jones Industrial Average will probably be over one million versus around 10,000 now. So for the long-term, the outlook is tremendously bullish if you buy stocks blindly to keep for a century.”

“The other boys at Yale came from wealthy families, and none of them were investing outside the United States, and I thought, ‘That is very egotistical. Why be so shortsighted or near-sighted as to focus only on America? Shouldn’t you be more open-minded?’”

“See the investment world as an ocean and buy where you get the most value for your money. Right now the value is in non-callable bonds. Most bonds are callable so when they start going up in price, the debtor calls them away from you. But the non-callable bonds, especially those non-callable for 25-30 years, can go way up in price if interest rates go way down.”

“If you buy all the stocks selling at or below two times earnings, you will lose money on half of them because instead of making profits they will actually lose money, but you will only lose a dollar or so a share at most. Then others will be mediocre performers. But the remaining big winners will go up and produce fabulous results and also ensure a good overall result.”

“How about no income tax at all on people over 65? People would continue working, remain healthier, not be an economic and social drain on society. Then the elderly would also have more disposable income to help charitable activities.”

“In my 45-year career as an investment counselor, humility did show me the need for worldwide diversification to reduce risk. That career did help me to become more and more humble because statistics showed that when I advised a client to buy one stock to replace another, about one-third of the time the client would have done better to ignore my advice. In other endeavors, humility about how little I know has encouraged me to listen more carefully and more wisely.”

“If governments encourage people to become more spiritual there will be a reduction in healthcare costs.”

“High ethics and religious principles form the basis for success and happiness in every area of life.”

“Diversify your investments.”

“Bull-markets are born on pessimism, grow on skepticism, mature on optimism and die on euphoria. The time of maximum pessimism is the best time to buy and sell.” (February 1994)

“Successful investing is only common sense. Each system for investing will eventually become obsolete.” (November 1984)

“The time to buy a stock is when the short-term owners have finished selling and the time to sell as tock is often when short-term owners have finished their buying.” (July 1987)

“’This time is different’ are among the most costly four words in market history.” (March 1994)

“Search for bargains. You should try to buy that particular investment whose market price is lowest in relation to your estimate of its true value.” (May 1952)

“I never ask if the market is going to go up or down, because I don’t know, and besides it doesn’t matter. I search nation after nation for stocks, asking: ‘Where is the one that is lowest priced in relation to what I believe it’s worth?'” (November 1978)

“The only investors who shouldn’t diversify are those who are right 100 percent of the time.” (The Templeton Touch)

“If you are diversified among different forms of wealth, nations, and industries, you’ll be safe in the long-run.” (May 1995)

“Experience teaches us that one of the most common errors in selecting stocks for purchase, or for sale, is the tendency to emphasize only the most obvious factor; namely the temporary outlook for sales and profits of the company.” (1946)

“The only certainty about the future is the fact that it will be different from the past.” (May 1957)

“For those properly prepared in advance, a bear market in stocks is not a calamity but an opportunity.” (May 1962)

Sir John Templeton reading the Wall Street Journal at the exact North Pole, July 27, 1996. Russian icebreaker Yamal is in background.

Relatives attending Sir John’s eightieth birthday celebration, 1992. Front row (l to r): Hillary Brooks, Admiral Winston Folk, USN Ret., Sir John Templeton, Irene Templeton, Gregory Carrol, Jewel Templeton, Cameron Brooks. From second to back (l to r): Colin Brooks, Sander Brooks, Irene Reynolds Butler, Anne Dudley Zimmerman, Wendy Brooks, Virginia Templeton, Amy Butler, Heather Templeton, Christopher Templeton, Mrs. Gäbriel Flynn, Gäbriel Flynn, Josephine Templeton, Jennifer Templeton, Ann Cameron, Jennifer Cameron, Gail Zimmerman, Renee Zimmerman, Richard Sidman, Jill Sidman, Lauren Templeton, Rhonda Zimmerman, Eva Zimmerman, Harvey Templeton III, Becky Templeton, Jason Flynn, Derek Dietz. Top row (l to r): Michael Zimmerman, Malcolm Butler, John M. Templeton Jr., Handly Templeton

Managers of Templeton Foundation, Bahamas, 1997: Mrs. Mena Griffiths, Sir John Templeton, and Mrs. Mary Walker

Templeton Foundations staff, Radnor, Pennsylvania 1997 (l to r): Anne Heilman, Karyl Wittlinger, Bryant Kirkland, Aideen Quigley, Judith Marchand, Fran Schapperle, Charles Harper, Joanna Hill, John Templeton, Jr., Arthur Schwartz, Laura Molina, Linda Kelly, Andrea Beckerman, Joann Dilullo, Pat Laird. Not pictured: Pam Lairdieson and Patricia Hotz.

 

Harvey Maxwell Templeton, 1930

Vella Handly Templeton, 1908

Harvey Templeton, Jr. (left) and John Marks Templeton, 1914.

John Marks Templeton ca. 1916

John Marks Templeton, 1930

Judith Dudley Folk Templeton wedding, Nashville, Tennessee 1937

Portrait of John Marks Templeton, 1950

John Templeton and Louis Rukeyser, 1992

Board of Directors of Templeton Investment Funds. Front row (l to r): Baron von Diergardt, Harold Siebens, John Galbraith, Sir John Templeton, William James, Lloyd Blachford, John Goldstone. Back row (l to r): Bruce Clark, Bruce McGowan, Mark Holowesko, Jay Bradshaw, Harry Kuch, Gary Motyl, Leroy Paslay, Tom Hansberger, Dr. John M. Templeton, Jr., Richard Tottenham.

The growth of the Templeton Growth Fund, Ltd., as compared to the Cost of Living Index.

Portrait of John Marks Templeton at home, 1980

Portrait of Irene Reynolds Butler Templeton, 1961

One branch of the Templeton family. Seated (l to r): Pina, Heather, and Irene. Standing (l to r): John M. Templeton, Jr. and John Marks Templeton, 1978

The dedication of the Templeton Hall of the Princeton Theological Seminary, 1990. (l to r): Dr. Thomas Gillespie, president; John Marks Templeton, former chairman; Mrs. Irene Templeton; Dr. David Watermulder, chairman.

Templeton Hall of the Princeton Theological Seminary, 1990.

On the occasion of Sir John Templeton’s election as an Honorary Fellow of Templeton College, Oxford. Seated: Sir John Templeton, Lady Irene Templeton, U. Kitzinger. Middle row: I. Kessler, B. Prodhan, E. Howard, S. Dopson, R. Undy, S. Jennings, R. Martin. Back row: R. Davies, J. McGee, C. Cowton, P. Anand, G. Fitzgerald, J. Purcell, J. Reynolds, R. Stewart, K. Blois.

Letter from Margaret Thatcher recognizing the establishment of Templeton School of Management at Oxford University.

The Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion was awarded to Dr. Billy Graham in 1982. (l to r): John Marks Templeton, Mrs. Billy Graham, Dr. Billy Graham, HRH Prince Philip.

The plaque with three gold medallions bestowing knighthood on John Marks Templeton.

Sir John and Lady Templeton leaving knighthood ceremony at Buckingham Palace, 1989.

In 1992, Sir John was honored with a festschrift, a collection of articles by some of his most respected friends and colleagues, which included this foreword written by HRH Prince Philip.

The Templeton Window, donated by Sir John, at Lady Chapel, Westminster Abbey, 1996.

Westminster Abbey, London, where Sir John served on HRH Prince Philip’s Restoration Commission, 1996.

John M. Templeton, Jr., Anne Templeton Zimmerman, and Christopher W. Templeton in Casper, Wyoming, 1990.

Dr. Anne Templeton Zimmerman and Dr. Gail Zimmerman on their wedding day in Tucson, Arizona, 1979.

Drs. Jack and Pina Templeton and their daughters, Heather (left) and Jennifer, 1996.

Front row (l to r): Rhonda Zimmerman, Anne Zimmerman, Gail Zimmerman, Heather Templeton, Jennifer Templeton, Lady Templeton, Virginia and Susan Judith Templeton, Pina Templeton. Back row (l to r): Mike Zimmerman, Eva Zimmerman, Renee Zimmerman, Sir John Templeton, Jack Templeton, Christopher Templeton, Gäbriel Flynn, Jason Flynn.

Sir John Templeton with his son Christopher’s daughter, Susan Judith.

Sir John and Lady Templeton, Mr. and Mrs. Harvey Templeton, Jr., and descendants in Winchester, Tennessee, 1992.

Sir John Templeton with his dog Spotless, 1996.

Bryant Kirkland and Frances Schapperle, 1996.

John Templeton Foundation executives at a board of advisors meeting, 1997. (l to r): John M. Templeton Jr., Charles L. Harper Jr., and Sir John Templeton.

(l to r): John C. Polkinghorne, John M. Templeton Jr., and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh at the 2002 Templeton Prize ceremony at Buckingham Palace. Photo Credit: Clifford Shirley

Sir John Templeton and Holmes Rolston III, 2003 Templeton Prize winner. Photo Credit: Karen Marshall

Sir John reading The Humble Approach.

Templeton Library, Sewanee, Tennessee.

Sir John on the cover of Publishers Weekly magazine launching Templeton Foundation Press, December 1996.

Sir John and Joanna Hill, director of Templeton Foundation Press, 1996.

Templeton Foundations staff, Radnor, Pennsylvania, 2001. (l to r): Front: Patricia Hotz, Paul Wason, Sharon Sizgorich, Carol Miller, Andrea Blane, Susan Shipe, Pamela Lairdieson, Mary Anne Meyers, Judith Marchand, Sir John Templeton, Karyl Wittlinger, Kevin Stehm, Stephanie Stair, Patricia Vergilio, Lynn Glodek, Linda Kelly. Back: Patricia Laird, Ruth Macauley-Barrett, Joanna Hill, Margaret Brennan, Pamela Thompson, Charles Harper, Laura Barrett, Alexander Rementer, Jim Rementer, Rozanne Tarlecky, Arthur Schwartz.

John Templeton Foundation members gathering, 2001. (l to r): Row 1: Mary Ann Meyers, Joanna Hill, Sir John Templeton, Anne D. Zimmerman, Harvey M. Templeton III, Karyl J. Wittlinger, David Myers, Lauren Templeton, Wendy Brooks. Row 2: Clara Stephens, Peggy Veljkovic, Amy Butler, Pamela Thompson, Harold Koenig, Renee Dawn Stirling, Russell Stannard, Mrs. Watson, Gail Zimmerman, Charles Harper. Row 3: Eleanor Folk, Robert Herrmann, Donald Munro, Glenn Mosley, Pamela Lairdieson, Frances Schapperle, Tom Watson, Mary Walker. Row 4: Christopher W. Templeton, Bobby Singleton, Martha Templeton, Sonny Templeton, Josephine Templeton, Robert Handly Cameron, Leigh Cameron, Ann Cameron, Douglas Cameron, John Barrow, Dererk Griffiths, Mena Griffiths. Row 5: Rebecca M. Templeton, Handly Templeton, David Lubinski, Mrs. Lubinski, John M. Templeton Jr., Jennifer Templeton, Speed Baranco, Virginia Templeton, Judith Marchand, Heather Dill, Jeffery Dill

John M. Templeton Jr. president of the John Templeton Foundation and Templeton Foundation Press.

 Great-grandson John Templeton Dill and John Marks Templeton, 2004.

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.