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GIVING ON THE MAIN LINE: Family Business

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At 95, Sir John Templeton has much to be proud of—looking on as his world-renowned foundation continues to extend its already formidable reach. But while son Jack may be running the show now, Dad still has plenty to offer.

There’s a throw pillow on a couch behind Dr. John M. Templeton Jr., and on it is sewn an unavoidable revelation: “Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a DAD.”

 

Though the pillow is a gift from his daughters, Heather and Jennifer, the same saying easily holds true for his father, Sir John M. Templeton, the outlandishly wealthy, world-renowned pioneer of high-yield, globally diversified mutual funds. At 95, he’s only just begun fretting over short-term memory loss. Prideful, he’s often frustrated—even in retirement at the exclusive
Lyford Cay gated community in the Bahamas. But here in Bryn Mawr, on son Jack’s enclosed front porch, Dad has every reason to feel fulfilled.

Now 67, Jack once held Christmas parties here. He was often Santa—first for 20 then eventually 140, young neighbors and the offspring of friends from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where he was a pediatric surgeon and the director of trauma. That was before he resigned at CHOP in July 1995 to work full-time for his father’s philanthropic creation, the John Templeton Foundation (JTF), which is 20 years old this year. Already president, Jack finally succeeded Sir John as chairman in October 2006.

Super-organized, Jack kept records of the presents he’d given children at previous parties. “Santa would never want to make the mistake of giving the same present twice,” he says.

To this day, Jack’s shirt pocket is stuffed with three colored pens (red, black and blue) and bulging with scraps of important notes—even on a Saturday. “Every minute is precious,” he says. “I could be standing in a line at the movies or in an airport, and now (looking into his pocket) I have something to read.”

And he was frugal, too—a topic addressed in Thrift and Generosity: The Joy of Giving, published by Templeton Foundation Press in 2004. Jack used to buy toys at Kmart in July at bargain prices. Still, he never could get a return on his time: It took 120 hours to prepare for a three-hour party.

The holidays have arrived again. But if your last name is Templeton, giving is a year-round endeavor. In recent years, the West Conshohocken-based JTF has invested $250 million into research projects that, for the most part, “humbly fuse” the seemingly dichotomous worlds of science and religion. The result: large-scale social benefits.

And yet, to say the foundation seeks to reconcile the differences between science and religion taints its work. That position’s too close-minded, contrived and artificial. So is its work all esoteric, academic and idealistic? Are the pursuits it funds conducted in vacuums? Or are they invigorating and effective?

Though both soft-spoken, the Templeton men exude an extraordinary boldness in asking cosmic-level (perhaps unanswerable) questions of the world’s brightest scientists, theologians, philosophers and social innovators. As such, they’re influencing and enriching a vast diversity of intellectual culture that’s teaming in unforeseen collaboration. “The joy is that there’s so much to learn,” Jack says. “Whether you’re 5 years old or 100 years old, we can always improve ourselves. That’s a joy.”

Sir John has always said that any successful progressive research answers an initial question while also leading to two new research questions. Progress, then, can result from studying life’s “really big questions,” Jack says.

Still, 40 percent of the foundation’s funding lands with grantees outside science and religion. Character development is neither science nor religion. Neither are for-profit schools or other free-enterprise interests. Or research on what constitutes or creates freedom.

At its core, JTF’s focus is on discovery, the creation of young cognitive geniuses and the promotion of the practical benefits of spirituality. Those were Sir John’s ideals in 1972, when he established the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities. For 35 years, it’s been the best-known religion prize in the world. The monetary award—£800,000 or roughly $1.5 million in 2007—is funded in perpetuity by Sir John, who has stipulated that it will always be worth more than the Nobel Prize to underscore that research and advancement in spiritual discoveries may be more significant than in the disciplines first recognized by the Nobels—physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace—in 1901.

The multi-faith prize goes to a living person each spring. The 2007 winner, Canadian Charles Taylor, a law and philosophy professor at Northwestern University and professor emeritus at McGill University in Montreal, believes we can overcome terrorism with spirituality. He’s been studying the history of violence and its relation to religion. Other fellows are delving into the influence of spirituality on human health, so doctors are beginning to match medical histories with spiritual histories. The foundation supports scientific study on about 20 intangible core themes that’s nearly an A-to-Z list—well, actually C (creativity and curiosity) to W (wisdom and worship). In 2001, an $8 million Templeton grant created the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love. It’s led to 50-plus research projects at universities nationwide.

No government, business or educational institution has the flexibility or the financing to pursue and develop such unconventional ideas—and all have positive twists. The grand focus is on cultivating what Jack calls “helper’s highs,” a euphoria associated with generosity.

Since April 2007, JTF has received over 400 unsolicited grant inquiries. Approximately 25 percent were funded, though there’s plenty of money—in late 2005, a personal gift from Sir John brought the foundation’s endowment to over $1 billion—and prizes and a prolific amount of press to go around. The foundation doesn’t just solicit grants, it also generates them in-house to standardize submissions and raise the bar. “Then we’re selecting the best of the best,” Jack says.

What kinds of proposals float JTF’s boat? One symposium held in Italy focused on the mystery of water. The capstone presentation by Alister McGrath, professor of theology at Oxford University, was titled “Water: A Channel from Science to God? On Reconstructing Natural Theology.”

When the foundation organizes a symposium, it’s no small undertaking. In the fall of 2005, 19 Nobel laureates were among the guests at “Amazing Light: Visions for Discovery,” held to honor 2005 Templeton Prize winner Charles Townes at the University of California, Berkley, and the Metanexus Institute. Forty-eight hours earlier, two, Roy Glauber and Theodore Hansch, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. Townes was celebrating his 90th birthday and the 50th anniversary of his discovery of the laser, for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1964.

 

In its selectivity and creativity, the Templeton Foundation models Sir John’s contrarian approach—one his son defines as “looking for value others don’t see,” whether in financial investments or discoveries. Jack admits a contrarian approach isn’t “normal thinking” but can benefit all. “There’s no way thrift can’t be applied to all,” he says. “There’s no way joy can’t impact every life.”

The foundation’s outreach appeals to all ages. For the young, there’s its “Laws of Life” essay contest, which annually
attracts 350,000 personal essays from 50 countries focusing on character, values and purpose. The Purpose Prize is a three-year award of $100,000 to each of five over-60 social innovators. It annually draws 1,100 nominations, including one from former Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode and his program that mentors the children of incarcerated parents.

While not an educational foundation, JTF aims to educate and involves itself in education. It’s against federal No Child Left Behind legislation, suggesting it be called “No Child Leaps Ahead” since standardization prevents—even denies—high-ability kids opportunity. It supports charter (or free enterprise) schools. “Our education system used to teach our
children to reach,” Jack says.

JACK HAS always been a student of his father, who was born Nov. 29, 1912, in rural Winchester, Tenn. Ironically, a dozen years later in nearby Dayton, Tenn., the famous Scopes “Monkey Trial” staged the epic battle of evolution theory vs. fundamentalist creationism. (The Templeton Foundation says they’re compatible positions.)

Sir John graduated from Yale and was a Rhodes Scholar at Balliol College, Oxford University. In 1937, during the Depression, he went to work on Wall Street. Three years later, as Jack was born, he began his own fund management company. By 1954, he’d founded the Templeton Growth Fund. His advice: invest globally.

The firm began with five well-situated investors. When its founder sold out, he was advising over a million investors. Sir John, who once considered a full-time religious career, called it his ministry.

After helping to restore Westminster Abbey—and coughing up $10 million to establish the Templeton College of Management at Oxford University—he was knighted in 1987 by England’s Queen Elizabeth II. Five years later, he sold Templeton, Galbraith and Hansberger (the Templeton Group) to Franklin Resources for $930 million. Assets were worth a reported $80 billion. Jack, one of his three children, owned 8 percent of the company.

Jack’s mother, Judith Dudley Folk Templeton, was a Nashville belle. Over a 10-day vacation in Bermuda in 1951, she was killed while motor biking. Sir John was driving. Neither was wearing a helmet, and something on a truck rounding a curve struck her head; she die within two hours. Jack was 11. He would become a trauma room surgeon. “It was unfortunate for all of us—especially my father,” he says. “He was left to share
double [parental] duty.”

Jack was raised in Englewood, N.J. His younger sister, Anne Templeton Zimmerman, was a retired physician and international activist for religious freedom until her death three years ago while undergoing heart surgery. A less-public younger bother, Christopher, has spent the last two years farming in Iowa.

Sir John’s parenting style encouraged independence, self-reliance and responsibility. “If I said I’d like a new bike, he’d say, ‘Great. Next week tell me two new jobs you can do to earn the money for the bike,’” Jack recalls. “I already gardened at home, so I suggested shoveling the driveway. I also took a box around the neighborhood and shined shoes.”

When he could drive, he delivered flowers. It was while standing in the family garden that Jack first honed his religious convictions, which remain different from his father’s. Enveloped in nature, he had this overwhelming sense there was something greater than himself, and a sense of
gratitude engulfed him. “I was 8 years old, but it created a response in me,” he says. “I knew I needed a way of giving back.”

Years later, in the late 1970s, it was at a dinner party on the Main Line hosted by Bryn Mawr insurance moguls Arthur and Nancy DeMoss where Jack and his wife, Dr. Pina (short for Josephine) Templeton, became Evangelical Christians. Arthur died in 1979, but Nancy still heads the conservative Christian Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation now based in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Often asked to provide testimony to religious Christian groups, Jack says he was confirmed an Episcopalian and raised a Presbyterian (Sir John’s persuasion). He attended a Quaker School (the George School in Newtown, Bucks County) and married a Catholic girl. “When I get to St. Peter’s gate, I can ask him, ‘Was one of those [religions] OK?’” he quips.

A member of Proclamation Presbyterian Church in Bryn Mawr, Jack makes a distinction about a common misconception. His interests and beliefs aren’t necessarily the foundation’s. “We’re absolutely not a Christian foundation,” he stresses. “We’ve awarded projects in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism [and other religions]. We have a global perception of religion.”

It’s a diverse approach—just like Sir John’s investment advice. So it wasn’t long before Jack became a director and manager in his father’s mutual funds business in the 1970s, even while working 80- to 90-hour weeks at the hospital.

His first career aspiration, though, was to become a “singing baseball player.” A soprano, he’d sing in the winter and play ball in the summer. But his voice went south and his batting average slumped. He considered teaching history and majored in it at Yale, his father’s alma mater, while taking pre-med classes. After he graduated from Harvard Medical School, he considered missionary work in under-developed countries but moved to Philadelphia instead. Eventually, he was working in the same operating room as his wife, a pediatric anesthesiologist. “She put my babies to sleep so I could operate on them,” he recalls fondly.

At CHOP, he also worked closely for nine years with C. Everett Koop, the eventual surgeon general, on high-profile cases like Siamese twin separations. Koop also taught Jack about the “sovereignty of the Lord,” particularly after Koop lost a son in a climbing accident after he bled to death in an emergency room.

Of course, Jack has experienced his own family tragedies, and he still defers to his faith to explain his mother’s and sister’s deaths. “There are always things we can’t understand,” he says.

 

 

IN HIS stewardship as JTF’s chairman, Jack Templeton has focused on staff development, increasing the role of trustees and upping annual giving to $50 million. There was also this November’s announcement of funding for a film, and possibly a TV project, that will enhance the presence of small so-called family foundations. There are 68,000 private foundations in the country. As many as 95 percent are small potatoes, recruiting and awarding $3 million to $15 million a year. Collectively, however, they do more philanthropy than the nation’s 50 most prolific foundations.

With JTF, there’s only so much Jack can do. In accordance with Sir John’s wishes, it’s governed by a charter and bylaws, which ensure responsibility and fidelity to donor intent. “We can’t get bigger and bigger without showing a benefit,” Jack says. “We’re big now, but we were once one of those small family foundations. We raised less than $9 million a year for the first nine years. My father did that on purpose, though.”

In 1987, from an office above a garage, Sir John created the concept, “testing if it would work,” says Jack. “When it did, he put more money into it.”

As Sir John aged, he began asking Jack to increase his involvement. “Then, one day he asked if I was ready to do what he’d been asking—and take over,” Jack says.

When he agreed, his father simply said, “That’s good.”

Though he confesses he wasn’t as “perfect” a choice to head the foundation as some may believe, Jack’s commitment sold his father. It was evident in “the last substantial challenge Dad gave me.”

When Sir John inquired about Jack’s 100-year plan for the foundation, his only advice was to be a catalyst for philanthropy. Now, Jack calls that vision the foundation’s legacy.

The overarching principal in Jack’s personal philosophy, and perhaps even in the foundation’s philanthropy, is leaving whatever one finds in better shape—be it the cosmos or a child in an emergency room. Aunt Jewel, his dad’s brother’s wife, taught him that lesson once while camping.

Philosophically, Jack often speaks of the self-sacrifice of the nation’s founding fathers. He’s especially fond of a rarely
cited line from the Declaration of Independence in which the statesmen pledge their lives, fortunes and scared honor. “Will we make the same sacrifice?” he asks.

Jack calls himself a neophyte in wisdom (though he is working on an autobiography he’ll publish in the next year or two). But he does know the greatest impact on any individual is cultural—that the best predictor of success is a belief in the benefit and application of learning. He also knows that duty and honor provide the surest base for personal fulfillment. As for life’s greatest conqueror, it’s the culture of victimology—or the belief in guaranteed failure, the desire to get something for nothing and a tolerance for what’s wrong.

Though the foundation doesn’t ever respond to the headlines of the day, there’s a growing faction that says religion is failing us—that its fanaticism is the reason for the world’s problems. “The word ‘fanatic’ can mean a lot,” Jack says. “Mother Teresa (the first Templeton Prize winner, six years before she won the Nobel Prize) was a fanatic for the poor.”

Templeton devotee Bruno Guiderdoni, a Muslim professor at the Paris Institute of Astrophysics, believes one reason the Islamic world is wrought with religious strife is because it lost the scientific tradition so active during Islam’s golden age. This, of course, was music to the foundation’s ears, and now there’s “Science and Religion in Islam,” a JTF initiative that seeks to revive that bygone tradition.

“‘Jesus wept,’” Jack says. “It’s the shortest line in the Bible, but men will always fall short of the greater glory of God. So Jesus still weeps. But a religion based on love cannot be based on force and violence. The core issue is not fundamental beliefs but whether or not the world is reaching out with love or hate.”

Sir John never approached anything with negativity, and he was never diverted or defeated by setbacks. When a stock went bad, it created bargains; bad news was good news. And so a disciplined and patient Sir John bought stocks in Japan in the 1960s and South America in the ’70s. He invested in the American auto industry after the 1973 oil crisis. And with equally progressive ideas about finance and faith, he made millions and formed a foundation that gives away millions to kindred spirits.

But Jack’s dad always did speak strongly against doing what everyone else does. And that’s made all the difference.

 


George W. Childs for President
Reviving the extraordinary legacy of one of the area’s most esteemed philanthropists.

By Beth Kephart

 

It was the winter of 1887-’88, and everywhere the talk was of Philadelphia’s George W. Childs. The Craftsman, the weekly organ of the International Typographical Union, was proposing Childs as the next American president. Democrats were hustling and clamoring. Republicans had joined the campaign, too, as had regular wage earners, the social elite, those on this side of the Mississippi, those on the other. “George W. Childs,” people said—and people listened.

You could hardly best the man’s credentials, after all. And history has yet to turn up a hostile rival. Childs was esteemed for the newspaper he so effectively ran—the literary, never salacious, impeccably accurate Public Ledger. He was remembered for the role he’d played in the great Centennial Exposition (organizational, financial, gracious host). He and his good friend Anthony Drexel had been at work since 1881 on the creation of Wayne, a novel concept in suburban living that was to provide ordinary individuals of moderate means the chance to live in a beautiful “village” of comfortable homes, broad avenues and pristine sanitation.

Because women represented the future, Childs had been making substantial contributions to Bryn Mawr College. Because the world was his oyster, he’d funded a memorial window in Westminster Abbey and a monument to Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon. Because men had fallen during the Civil War, he provided for their families. Because printers deserved proper burial grounds, he funded a cemetery for their use at Woodlands and provided the monies to ensure its preservation. Because Leigh Hunt and Edgar Allen Poe had been placed in unmarked graves, he funded the erection of proper memorials. Because his newspaper was profitable, he distributed so many employee gifts at Christmas that some nicknamed him Santa Claus.

There was hardly a Philadelphia institution that hadn’t benefited from Childs. And those parties he’d throw at the idyllic Bryn Mawr estate he called Wooten? It wasn’t just Ulysses Grant, the Astors, Thomas Edison, Andrew Carnegie, the emperor and empress of Brazil, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, the duke and duchess of Buckingham, Walt Whitman and Matthew Arnold in attendance. It was the newsboys and the typesetters, too—as honored guests, not labor.

George W. Childs for president? Absolutely.

But no, said the man himself. No thank you. It was too great a mantle, in his opinion. And besides, he had other things to do. He had that news-
paper to run, for starters—along with a library of first-rate books to settle in with, a wife he adored, and correspondence to maintain with authors and thinkers. And then there were the people—the countless multitudes—who came daily to Childs’ office to tell their stories and solicit his advice. And who would leave all the wiser, and most likely the richer, with the funds in their pockets that would facilitate their dreams. This was philanthropy the way Childs liked it best. This was living life at its most resonant.

 

George Childs hadn’t gotten much of an education himself. He’d never been the recipient of handouts. Born in Baltimore on May 12, 1829, he
entered the United States Navy 13 years later. It wasn’t, he decided, the life for him. And within 15 months, he was in Philadelphia—$3 in his pocket and no sure prospects. At 6th and Arch streets, he found a bookstore run by a certain Mr. Thomson. He offered his services as clerk and errand boy, gratefully taking on the work as an early-morning-to-late-at-night presence, paying $2.50 a week for board against his $3 salary. Soon enough, he was entrusted with the book-buying work—attending evening auctions where he bought the best volumes for the best prices, which he then sold the next day to a growing crowd of admiring customers. At book-trade events in New York and Boston, Childs met the Harpers, the Lippincotts, the Putnams, the Ticknors. By the time he turned 18, Childs had the contacts—and the savings—to go into business for himself, setting up shop in the
Public Ledger building. Success bred success, opening doors. Industry, temperance and frugality were his watchwords. At 21, he stepped into the book publishing trade. His earliest acquisitions were bestsellers.

On Dec. 3, 1864, Childs, having recently retired from book publishing, purchased (with the help of the perpetually-at-his-side Anthony Drexel), the Public Ledger, a Philadelphia newspaper that couldn’t keep itself afloat. One week later, the price of the paper had been doubled, and advertising rates raised to “profitable figures.” New editorial standards were put into place, too. No excessive graphic details of terrible crime were to be run, no material that couldn’t be read out loud at dinner, no facts that hadn’t been vetted, nothing titillating or scandalous for the sake of sales or headlines. You run a news organization to educate and elevate. You don’t go digging among the grubs. Childs had no interest in trafficking in poison, and those were the days when honesty and eloquence still found their audience. Paying fair wages for good work, putting in 14-hour days himself, Childs turned the Ledger around—balanced its books, made a profit and had newspapers and magazines across the country looking up to the editorial standards to which it held.

The young man who had cleared just 50 cents a week as a bookstore clerk had money in his pockets. He had friends—so many of them. He had
this sense—outsized, unusual even for his day—that the money he had made was to be shared not after his death but during his lifetime, when he could see the impact of his giving. “The perfect man,” he wrote once, in response to a question from the
New York Herald, is “one who has a clear conscience, an honest purpose, a bright mind and a healthy body.”

Generosity, he opined later, can be “cultivated.” Philanthropy was something you did as soon as you were able because, well, Childs said
it best himself:

“I have felt that it is a great mistake to put off being generous until after you are dead. In the first place, you lose the pleasure of witnessing the good that you may do; and, again, no one can administer your gifts for you as well as you can do it for yourself. It is a great pleasure to be brought into personal relations of that kind and to make people feel that you are not a philanthropist in the abstract, but that you are interested in them personally and care for their welfare. In that way you benefit them not merely in a natural way, but you make them feel that men are really brothers and that they were made to help one another. That feeling is not only agreeable in itself, but it will be apt to prompt them to carry out the principle themselves. Put yourself into all you do, and let others feel that you are there. Do not only contribute to a charitable object, but go yourself and help. It may seem an inconvenience at first, but soon you will come to consider it worth any inconvenience.”

Some of those who came to Childs were sent on, by him, to college. Some traveled across the seas. Some were given the means to learn more about—to grow more facile at—the passions they had chosen. “Scattered all over the land are men and women who owe their success in professional or business life to the aid given by this friend, when it was most needed,” eulogized Dr. James MacAllister, the first president of the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry, upon Childs’ death. “The gentle, loving sympathy that always went with the pecuniary assistance was, I am sure, quite as helpful to the recipient.”

The institute had been Childs’ beneficiary, too. Childs offered help in facilitating Anthony Drexel’s dream. Then, upon, its opening, he bestowed his “collection of rare prints, manuscripts, rich relics and autographs.”

“It was impossible for him to keep from giving,” MacAllister said. “The desire to benefit others grew upon him as his resources increased, until at length benevolence became the dominant element of his nature. For the last 25 years of his life, he gave the larger portion of every working day to do what he could to increase the sum of human happiness. He did not give as a means of compounding his conscience, or with the hope of forestalling the world’s post-humus judgment.”

At 5 o’clock on the afternoon of Jan. 18

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