July 9, 2008


Philanthropist Templeton dies at 95: Investor used wealth to urge religious study (AP, July 9, 2008)

Mr. Templeton created the $1.4 million Templeton Prize - billed as the world's richest annual prize - to honor advancement in knowledge of spiritual matters. Winners have included Mother Teresa, Billy Graham and Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Mr. Templeton wanted the monetary value to surpass that of the Nobel Prize to show that advances in spiritual fields were just as important, Mr. Lehr said. Next year's prize is expected to be almost $2 million, he said.

Mr. Templeton was born in Tennessee, graduated from Yale University and became a Rhodes Scholar, earning a master's degree in law at Oxford University. He later moved to Nassau and became a naturalized British citizen.

Mr. Templeton launched his Wall Street career in 1937 and was considered a pioneer in foreign investment, choosing companies and nations that were foundering or at points of what he called "maximum pessimism," Mr. Lehr said.

In 1939, he borrowed money to buy 100 shares each in 104 companies selling at $1 per share or less, including 34 companies that were in bankruptcy, Mr. Lehr said. Only four turned out to be worthless, and Mr. Templeton turned large profits on the others, he said. [...]

Mr. Templeton was influenced by the Unity School of Christianity, which takes a non-literal view of heaven and hell, and he often started his mutual fund's annual meetings with a prayer, Mr. Lehr said. The philanthropist also was a member of the Presbyterian Church and a board member of the Princeton Theological Seminary.

In 1987, he established the John Templeton Foundation to fund projects that could reconcile religion and science. The Pennsylvania-based nonprofit has an estimated endowment of $1.5 billion and awards some $70 million in annual grants.

Associated Press John Templeton created the $1.4 million Templeton Prize, ensuring that the reward was greater than that of the Nobel Prize to publicize the significance of spiritual development.

Its mission is to serve as a catalyst to answer the "big questions," Mr. Lehr said. Grants have been awarded to studies ranging from evolutionary biology and cosmology to love and forgiveness.

-VIDEO: Sir John Marks Templeton (1912-2008) (Acton)
-OBIT: Sir John Templeton, philanthropist, dies at 95 (Robert D. Mcfadden, July 9, 2008, NY Times)

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 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.

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 9, 2008 9:39 AM
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