- - Thursday, June 4, 2015

When William Wilberforce died in 1833, the British Parliament passed a special bill permitting him to be buried in Westminster Abbey, an honor rarely accorded to a commoner. The inscription on his tomb read:

In an age and country fertile in great and good men, he was among the foremost of those who fixed the character of their times; because to high and various talents, to warm benevolence, and to universal candour, he added the abiding eloquence of a Christian life. Eminent as he was in every department of public labour, and a leader in every work of charity, whether to relieve the temporal or the spiritual wants of his fellow-menYet he died not unnoticed or forgotten by his country: the peers and commons of England, with the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker at their head, in solemn procession from their respective houses, carried him to his fitting place, among the might dead around, here to repose: till, through the merits of Jesus Christ, his only Redeemer and Saviour, (whom, in his life and in his writings he had desired to glorify,) he shall rise in the resurrection of the just.

The same could be said of my friend, Jack Templeton, who did not die unnoticed or forgotten by his country. His death on May 16th prompted encomiums in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and many other publications.

Last week 400 people stood in line for three hours to honor Jack and to pay their respects to his wife and daughters. They came from all over the country and from all walks of life: adults who as children survived life-threatening trauma because of Jack’s skill as a pediatric surgeon; young people who benefitted from his quiet but bountiful personal charity; colleagues from a dozen or more civic organizations in Philadelphia that Jack supported; friends from clubs and politics and church; leaders of some of the nation’s most prominent charities; colleagues, trustees and advisors of The John Templeton Foundation, the charity founded by his father that Jack led with distinction for the last 28 years; and his oldest and dearest friend from medical school whom he called “brother.”

Jack wrote in the class notes for his 45th Yale reunion that his earliest ambition was to be a singing baseball player. Fortunately for us, he was a terrible singer and an indifferent ball player; but that didn’t dampen his passion for the game. One of his proudest moments was attending a Philadelphia Phillies fantasy baseball camp and playing second base in a Phillies uniform with former players. He loved nothing more than taking employees and their young children to the ballpark on summer afternoons, buying them hotdogs and peanuts and sharing his passion for the game.

Jack Templeton was a man of parts and of passions. The thread that held them together was gratitude. “Since I can first remember as a youngster, I have always felt a deep sense of gratitude,” he wrote in the Yale class notes, gratitude especially for family and for freedom. Jack understood from personal experience how fragile life is: he lost his mother to an accident as a boy, and his high school ambition to be a history teacher was inspired by the sacrifices of the WWII generation. In college, Jack decided to major in history to learn how we gained our liberties, and to become a doctor in the developing world to help others secure the health benefits and personal freedoms that we enjoy.

Jack more than fulfilled his youthful aspirations: he spent the first half of his professional life saving children and the second half preserving freedom. The change was no easy task: he was a world-class surgeon, a gifted teacher and a renowned mentor asked in middle age by his father to become a philanthropy executive. Jack accepted the challenge, attracted by the opportunity to help his father build a great foundation dedicated to promoting character and freedom and inquiry into the big questions in science and religion. Under Jack’s leadership, the John Templeton Foundation grew from $28 million to $3.4 billion and gives away in excess of $100 million a year.

Jack concluded his Yale class note with a challenge to his classmates to think less about themselves and more about others, especially future generations. “If we find a way to restore, in our culture, core character virtues like thrift and generosity plus a re-commitment to honesty and personal responsibility, we will preserve much of that inner compass which will allow us to pass the fragile gift of freedom and self-government to the next generation.”

I served with Jack as a trustee and advisor to the Foundation for the last eight years. Nothing he did was inspired by self-interest. He strove with every fiber of his being to honor his father’s vision and legacy. Jack was the hardest working person at the Foundation by an order of magnitude. I (and others) routinely got calls from him at midnight asking a question or seeking insight. Always the doctor, he wouldn’t leave the office until each grant application was given his very best, even if it meant working until 2 or 3 in the morning.

“It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it,” the politician and philosopher Seneca wrote. “Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested.”

Jack Templeton did not waste time. He died far too young, but fully invested, at 75. His father would be proud and we should be grateful. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

• Mark Berner is an entrepreneur, an advisor and a former trustee of The John Templeton Foundation.

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