Sir John Templeton was a mutual fund pioneer, one of the most benevolent philanthropists in history and a deeply spiritual man. He also wrote several books, many of which focused on spirituality. A lifelong member of the Presbyterian Church and a 42 year member of the Board of Trustees for the Princeton Theological Seminary, Sir John can certainly be classified as a Christian. However, Templeton was also convinced that little was known about spiritual truth and he remained open to the benefits and values of other faiths. His commitment to spiritual progress led to the creation of an annual award given to the person, “who had made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works”, known as the Templeton Prize. The amount ($1,700,000 as of 2013) is adjusted annually to exceed that of the Nobel Prizes, as Templeton wanted breakthroughs in our understanding of spiritual laws to garner a greater reward than that of the natural world. Sir John Templeton gave away over $1 Billion to charitable causes, landed on Time magazine’s list off 100 Most Influential Power Givers of all time and ultimately, he lived the life of a Giant for God.
Born and raised in Winchester, Tennessee, John had a normal childhood but displayed an extraordinary intellect in his youth. He attended Yale, graduating in 1934 near the top of his class and then attending Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. In 1937, he moved to Wall Street to begin his life long career in the financial world. In that same year, he married Judith Folk, a fellow Southerner he had met while at Yale. They had three children, John Jr, Anne and Christopher. It didn’t take long for him to get the hang of investing and in only three years, in 1940, John had already started his own investment fund. Tragedy struck in 1951 though, when, while on vacation, his wife Judith died in a freak motorbike accident. John leaned on his heavenly Father for strength during this difficult time. It was not until several years later, in 1958, that he remarried, to Irene Butler, to whom he was with until her passing in 1993.
Templeton also continued to grow in his career during this time, launching the Templeton Growth Fund in 1954 which went on to become the most successful globally diversified mutual fund of its time. Today, mutual funds are very common but at the time, John was a pioneer in creating, not only a mutual fund, but one that invested internationally. His global investing decisions were incredibly productive and in later years he was dubbed the greatest global stock picker of the century. And perhaps equally important was his unwavering integrity, especially in light of all the money manager scandals that have rocked the financial world for the past several decades.
In 1968, after much success in the financial epicenter of Wall Street, Templeton permanently moved to the Bahamas from New York, renouncing his US citizenship and becoming a dual naturalized Bahamian and British citizen (It is unclear as to why he made the move but many years later, when he sold his fund in 1992, he saved $100 Million in US income taxes to which he channeled toward philanthropy). In 1972 he established the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, with Mother Theresa winning the first prize. By 1987, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his benevolence, giving him the name Sir John Templeton. In that same year, he also established the John Templeton Foundation, which funded more than 245 initiatives in the areas of science, religion, character development and freedom by 2001 and by 2004, it had $1 Billion in assets. Today, the foundation is led by John Jr.
Through the Templeton Press, Sir John wrote and published several books, including two of his more influential works, The Humble Approach: Scientist Discover God and The The Templeton Plan: 21 Steps to Personal Success and Real Happiness. Rather than author books on the subject of international investing, he focused his writing on helping others understand eternal, spiritual wisdom.