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Opinion

Sir John Templeton: iconic innovator in finance and religion

He was a shrewd stock picker. But his priority was spiritual wealth.

By Gary Moore / July 11, 2008



Sarasota, Fla.

Sir John Templeton was many things to many people.

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To the general public, he was one of the past century's greatest investors and philanthropists – a man who revolutionized both mutual fund investing and the effort to explore the nexus between science and religion.

After his passing this week, he will likely be remembered by the rational and affluent West as a poor boy from Tennessee turned Rhodes scholar and Dean of Global Investing.

His fellow professionals might remember him as a shrewd judge of the value of corporations.

Christians might remember him for his Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, and as someone who puts first things first: Faith, patience, prudence, and ethics were foremost in his thought.

Scientists might remember him most for his Templeton Foundation, which gives millions to study the links between science and religion.

Traditional Europe might remember Sir John, as his friends called him, as a great philanthropist who was knighted by Her Majesty as he valued historic treasures such as Oxford and Westminster Cathedral enough to invest in their futures. And the East will probably remember John as a spiritual creature who valued his Creator above all else, as he'd "been convinced that nothing exists except God."

I will remember him as a good Samaritan who paused to help me during a painful time on Wall Street. His historical and global perspective assured me that markets assuredly rebound – and that it's most wise to, as the poem goes, "keep your head when all about you are losing theirs." That was sage advice then, and it's sage advice today.

We would all be correct in our differing memories of John Templeton. Yet we live in an age of strained relationships, where differences seem intractable. So we might be most enriched if we remember his holistic approach to life.

John worked very intentionally to live the spiritual qualities he prized. And while he may have valued reason, prosperity, tradition, and spirituality, he gave top priority to love, the connecting force that holds us together despite our differences – even the largest ones.

He once startled me by describing how difficult it had been to love Joseph Stalin. He later worked at loving Saddam Hussein. That effort showed how seriously he took the biblical injunction to love his neighbors, including enemies, as himself.

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