As a pioneer in both financial investment and philanthropy, the late Sir John Templeton spent a lifetime encouraging open-mindedness. If he had not sought new paths, he once said, "I would have been unable to attain so many goals."
John Marks Templeton was born on November 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 and as President of Phi Beta Kappa. He was named a Rhodes Scholar to Balliol College at Oxford, from which he graduated with a degree in law in 1936.
Templeton started his Wall Street career in 1938 and went on to create some of the world's largest and most successful international investment funds. He took the strategy of "buy low, sell high" 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.
Templeton entered the mutual fund industry in 1954, when he established the Templeton Growth Fund. With dividends reinvested, each $10,000 invested in the Templeton Growth Fund Class A at its inception would have grown to $2 million by 1992, when he sold the family of Templeton Funds to the Franklin Group. In 1999, Money magazine called him "arguably the greatest global stock picker of the century."
He established the world's largest annual award given to an individual, the Templeton Prize, which honors a living person who has made an exemplary contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension. Its monetary value, currently £1,000,000, always exceeds that of the Nobel Prizes, which was 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 assets to the John Templeton Foundation. He expected the Foundation to stand apart from any consideration of dogma or personal religious belief and to seek out grantees who are “innovative, creative, enthusiastic, and open to competition and new ideas" in their approach to the Big Questions. That same year, he was created a Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II for his many philanthropic accomplishments.
Sir John 's death, at age 95, was noted around the world, with tributes that acknowledged the extraordinary breadth of his career and his vision. In an obituary titled "Maximum Optimist," the Wall Street Journal wrote: “As an investor, he always had confidence his picks would improve over the long term. Appropriately, the same ‘enthusiasm for progress,’ as he put it, also made him one of the world's great philanthropists.” His passing was also marked by Nature, the world's leading scientific journal: Templeton was “a great admirer of science, the undogmatic practice of which he believed led to intellectual humility. His love of science and his God led him to form his foundation in 1987 on the basis that mutual dialogue might enrich the understanding of both.”