NASSAU, Bahamas – Sir John Templeton, an investor and mutual fund pioneer who dedicated much of his fortune to promoting religion and reconciling it with science, has died. He was 95.
Templeton died Tuesday from pneumonia at Doctors Hospital in Nassau, said his spokesman Donald Lehr.
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 Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
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.
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,” Lehr said.
In 1956, Templeton helped establish a technology fund whose capital skyrocketed in the late 1950s after fund management companies were allowed to go public. He also established Templeton Growth Fund, which he sold in 1992 to the Franklin Group for $440 million.
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, 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. Its mission is to serve as a catalyst to answer the “Big Questions,” Lehr said.