Sir John M. Templeton: The Passing of a Visionary

On July 8th, our dear friend Sir John M. Templeton passed away at the age of 95. We deeply share the sadness of this loss with the many people worldwide who have had the pleasure of knowing and working with him. On October 1, 1998, we had the distinct privilege of hosting our gala dinner in San Francisco to honor him as a man of integrity, intellect, vision, compassion, charity, and great humility.

Sir John greatly changed the world for the better and in ways we have only yet begun to grasp. He was a pioneer throughout his life in finance, philanthropy, education, entrepreneurship, science, and spirituality, and through the John Templeton Foundation, he pursued the enduring questions of God, nature, and purpose in life that all people must face.

He received his A.B. from Yale University and his M.A. in law from Balliol College at Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. Internationally renowned for fifty years as the pioneer of global investment in founding and managing over thirty funds, for many Americans, he was probably best known for years for his “New Year’s Show” appearance on Wall $treet Week with Louis Rukeyser, on which he would make his seemingly outlandish, annual predictions—all of which would prove to be correct.

In 1972, Sir John created the annual Templeton Prize on Progress in Religion to recognize frontier thinking in religion and science contributing to humanity. Past recipients have included Mother Teresa, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Paul Davies, Lord Jakobovitz, Billy Graham, Michael Novak, Inamullah Kahn, and Nikkyo Nimano.

Yet, while recognizing and valuing the contribution of religious and scientific leaders, Sir John knew first-hand from deep experience the enormous value and contribution to humanity’s well-being of for-profit, free, private enterprise, which, in his words, “enriches the poor more than any other system humanity ever has had.” As he 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.”

This view led to his founding of the Templeton College of Management at Oxford University, for which, among other of his many philanthropic accomplishments, he was created a Knight Bachelor by Queen Elizabeth II in 1987. Sir John received twenty honorary doctoral degrees and numerous awards. His articles appeared in newspapers and magazines worldwide, and he was the author of a dozen books.

A founding member of the International Society of Financial Analysts, Sir John was one of the earliest members of the Young Presidents Organization and became President of the Chief Executives Organization, and he was a member of the Society of Security Analysts, World Presidents Organization, Mt. Pèlerin Society, and Phi Beta Kappa.

We at the Independent Institute have been proud to collaborate with Sir John and his Foundation on numerous projects over the course of our history, including our current sponsorship of the Sir John M. Templeton Fellowships for college students and junior faculty members worldwide. And, our Center on Global Prosperity (directed by Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa) that addresses the enormous need to overcome the crisis of abject poverty afflicting billions of people worldwide, was made possible by the initial funding of the John Templeton Foundation.

Our sincere condolences go to his family and friends, and all who have been touched by his life and work.

David J. Theroux is Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Institute.
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