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Contact: Mary Ann Meyers, Ph.D., Senior Fellow Purpose

Purposehis year is the 105th anniversary of Sir John Templeton’s birth and the 30th anniversary of the founding of the John Templeton Foundation (JTF). It may be that 2017 is the last significant anniversary year when it will be possible to draw together a sizable number of scholars, scientists, and others who worked closely with the founder of a philanthropy that ranks among the top twenty-five in the United States in terms of its assets. But JTF’s focus on catalyzing discoveries related to the deepest and most perplexing questions facing humankind sets it apart. To reflect on their relationship with Sir John, along with the advances in their fields since they first advised Sir John on areas ripe for his philanthropic investments, eleven people who knew him in the Foundation’s formative years are gathered in Lyford Cay, the community on the western tip of New Providence Island in The Bahamas where he made his home for four decades.

Sir John came of age and began to build his fortune through strategic financial investments in global markets (Templeton Growth Fund in 1954 followed by the Templeton World Fund, Inc. in 1978, and the Templeton Global Funds, Inc. in 1981) during a period that was arguably the most productive in the long history of science. A string of fundamental insights into the nature of the universe came in rapid succession, and continues today, most recently with the discovery of the Higgs boson and gravitational waves.

Scientific progress in all domains fascinated Sir John, and he celebrated it with enthusiasm. But his fascination was directly linked to how beneficial he thought advances in science could be to the spiritual life of human beings. He regarded the exploration of what he termed Ultimate Reality to be just as accessible to progress as the exploration of physical reality, and he championed the scientific method as the exemplar of rational inquiry in both domains. “The excitement and importance of scientific study of nature and the cosmos,” he wrote, “are enhanced . . . if we conceive of each discovery as a new revelation of reality deriving from and grounded in God.”

Implicit in his progress-oriented philosophy was the conviction that human flourishing could be enhanced through religion and spirituality. He was eager to investigate the possible links between health, healing, length and quality of life, and religious practices and spiritual commitments. He thought the world would be a better place if people lived lives of love and virtue, and he wanted to know the best ways to cultivate, especially in young people, a range of “character virtues.”

The purpose of this symposium is to bring together those who, knowing Sir John as a friend and mentor, can help the stewards of his philanthropic venture assess the current state of knowledge in these first advisors’ areas of expertise and, through that assessment, help direct JTF’s future work in areas set out by its founder in the Charter he left for his Foundation.