Gratitude Revealed is made possible through the support of a grant from The John Templeton Foundation.
So, what does that really mean? That sentence you just read probably didn’t move, touch or inspire you very much. And yet, if you are willing to indulge us just a moment… we’d like to share the story of one family’s commitment to profound acts of generosity.
You see, there is a beautiful story of one man’s journey to provide for a world much bigger than himself, and his commitment to his own family name that it carry this mission of generosity into future generations to come.
3 minute film on Generosity
We thought it might be absolutely perfect to compliment this conversation with our 3 minute film, “Generosity,” one of our 15 videos on gratitude. We suggest watching the film and then reading the article for maximum gratitude.
If so inspired, we invite you to
learn more here.
What struck me most in preparing this article was what it might mean to be the recipient of such a vision; to be born into a name that carries with it an expectation of extraordinary acts of generosity and honor. Might that be a challenging duty to accept?
In 2015, Mrs. Heather Templeton Dill, grand-daughter to Sir John Templeton, daughter to Dr. Jack Templeton, accepted the position of President of the John Templeton Foundation. She is the second president, and the second Templeton to hold this position. Her grandfather served as Chairman until 2005 when her father became Chairman and President. Heather’s sister, Jennifer Templeton Simpson, now serves as Chair of the John Templeton Foundation Board.
Again, simply reading this statement of historical fact might not strike you as much more than news. But, upon deeper reflection… imagine what it must have been to fully embrace the vision held by her father and grandfather? To accept the role of protector, and to embrace the duty and responsibility to fulfill the great mission of her family name?
I had the honor of speaking with Mrs. Dill on the subject of generosity, and what it means to her to hold the position of President for her family’s foundation.
My Conversation With Heather Templeton Dill
GR: Mrs. Dill, thank you so much for speaking with us today!
Mrs. Dill: Oh, thank you! Thank you for your work with Gratitude Revealed. This is wonderful to be able to talk a little bit about generosity today. It’s a great topic.
GR: When you were little with your grandfather, did you ever imagine that someday you would be carrying on the torch for his foundation? I would love for you to share a little bit about the process with which you came to accept this profound family duty.
Mrs. Dill: Sure. Actually, I had no anticipation of this when I was a child. I didn’t know very much about my grandfather’s philanthropic work really. I remember, for example, that he was knighted by the Queen of England in 1987 but I didn’t really know why. As a child, I actually thought it was because of his financial achievements and his work in the mutual fund industry. It was only later that I came to know it was because of his charitable and philanthropic work that the Queen recognized him in that way.
As a child, I would watch my grandfather on Wall Street Week, which was a PBS show. Occasionally he appeared there, but I didn’t really come to know about the various aspects of his philanthropic vision until he appointed me to the board of the John Templeton Foundation in the late 1990’s, when I was still in college. Then I began to get a sense of what he was trying to do and even still I didn’t develop a full appreciation for the total vision until 2009.
In 2009, my dad agreed that I could work on an internal project where I was trying to articulate why Sir John was interested in character development, which is one of our funding areas. In the process of that project, I read all of his books for the first time in my life actually.
It was through the writing of that piece that I fully came to realize the depth of his works in philanthropy. I was profoundly inspired by it.
A few years ago, we began talking about succession planning for my dad. He was going to have to step down serving as president of this organization at the age of 78. At that time I found myself saying to him that I would like to do whatever it takes to prepare myself for this position. That was an important conversation because I had no experience managing any kind of organization, let alone a large one, nor did I have a degree that would warrant me to fit in this position.
And yet, I felt compelled to accept the position if granted it.
To my father’s credit, he supported my interest, but not without proper training and preparation. There would be much work to do. We mapped out a succession plan which included having me join the John Templeton Foundation staff in August of 2014. Previous to that I began a master’s degree in the history and sociology of science at the University of Pennsylvania, which I have not yet finished because this role came into my lap earlier than expected with my father’s passing in 2015.
I would describe this process as an evolution, but as a child I really had no idea about the tremendous value of this work. It’s been an exciting discovery.
GR: Wow. That sounds incredibly courageous to know you’re stepping into shoes perhaps you didn’t yet have the training for, but you believed in yourself enough to know you could do what it would take to be able to fill those shoes. I think that’s beautiful. How did you find the courage to do that?
Mrs. Dill: Well, I believe courage comes with doubt, which is not a reason to run away from something but maybe a reason to do it. I have to say that I really credit my husband for encouraging me to do this and believing I could do it. I think perhaps my husband’s persistence in encouraging me to pursue the opportunity and continue the work is what gave me the strength to know I could do it and why I continue to do it today.
GR: That’s so inspiring. What excites you about the John Templeton Foundation mission and how have you made it, or plan to make it, your own?
Mrs. Dill: There’s so much that excites me about my grandfather’s vision, which is multifaceted, but I think I am most compelled by my grandfather’s pursuit of inquiry into the unknown. Not only do we know so little about the natural world but we know even less about God or divinity – whatever it is that we feel yet can’t see, yet we might argue we see the effects of it when we see kindness or generosity.
What I like about my grandfather’s vision is that I can be committed to a faith tradition but I can still ask these questions, even about my own religious tenets in light of scientific evidence.
One might say, “Well you’re questioning your faith,” and I would offer that these questions enliven my faith. One of our trustee members who is from a different faith tradition says that the kinds of questions my grandfather was interested in enlivened his own faith and his own practice as well. And so one might conclude that there is room to explore and deepen one’s faith within scientific examination. That to me is one of the most compelling aspects of my grandfather’s vision and is what excites me.
As I think about making this work my own, I am excited about working with my team to identify the top priorities for us in the coming years and to make really significant investments in those top priorities. One of these priorities is to bring young people into this conversation. In my view, that’s a way of tilling the soil for those who come behind us in order to inspire future generations to do important research and help us learn more about divine reality, whatever that might be.
There are so many things I could say about his vision but that’s the piece that I found so compelling when I first read all of his books within one summer and I still find most compelling today. There’s a lot to be said for reading the corpus of someone’s work within a constrained time frame.
GR: Louie [Schwartzberg] often remarks on the divine miracle of what he sees through his lens. No matter one’s beliefs, there is an undeniable power of good. It seems crucial that we learn to breach this delicate conversation and your family’s foundation seems to be making it very clear it doesn’t matter what one’s beliefs are, you support one’s ability to ask the questions and study the answers.
Mrs. Dill: That’s right.
GR: Do you recall a moment or memory of your father or grandfather, where you witnessed an act of generosity?
Mrs. Dill: That’s a great way of putting it. I’ll share a story about both. For my grandfather, what sticks out most is when he sold his mutual funds in 1992, after which he dedicated his time completely to the work of the John Templeton Foundation. He would always say in his subtle, southern drawl, that he was so much more joyful and so much busier than he ever was when he managed money because he just took so much joy in his philanthropic work. I can still see him saying that.
He gave his fortune to this philanthropy, which he knew was a much greater gift to his family. I was at a conference recently of family businesses and I was the only one there who was overseeing a family philanthropy. I was really honored. My grandfather could have handed the Templeton mutual funds down to family members but he didn’t. He preferred to create this philanthropy and entrust that to the care of his descendants, and that’s a pretty profound act of generosity in itself.
As for my dad, I have lots of memories of my father’s generosity of course. We tithed from our allowance every week. On Christmas Eve we had a family tradition where my dad would take my sister and me to the grocery store and we would buy a complete Christmas dinner for a family in need. Every year we had a different family. We would wrap up their whole wish list and we would go deliver that all on Christmas Eve before Christmas Eve service.
And while I didn’t witness my parents practicing medicine per se, the way in which they practiced – they were both pediatric physicians – modeled generosity to me. They gave up a lot of time with family. They were always available for their patients. They stayed until the bitter end if a patient was not stable after surgery, or whatever might be needed of them. I’ve come to really honor and respect my parents’ generosity, even more so as an adult.
GR: I can only imagine Sir John’s strategic pride when he placed you on the board when you were still in college. That must have been a very important decision for him, and a successful one when you accepted.
Mrs. Dill: It’s interesting. I am often surprised at how much he thought about my sister and I in that regard because as you might expect, he was very busy. I think he recognized that his family would be in a good place to carry forward his vision.
GR: I do think that it is worth mentioning that you are a woman and that Sir John still trusted you at that time to be able to fulfill your role wonderfully. I think that’s worth acknowledging him for.
Mrs. Dill: Yes, indeed. I think sometimes it’s easy to forget particularly when you think where women were in his generation.
GR: How do you define generosity and why do you think generosity is so important? That’s a big one.
Mrs. Dill: A few years ago I decided that I should teach my kids a virtue a month because I think those words are so powerful. One of the first words I chose was generosity, or generous. Generous is defined, or at least one of its definitions, is “giving more than is expected.” I think that phrase is really important. In the Christian tradition you are encouraged to tithe ten percent. I wouldn’t describe that as generosity, however, because that’s what you’re suppose to do. That’s what is expected. I think, likewise, if you help a coworker finish a task or clean up after an event, or whatever it might be, I might argue that’s expected. That’s just being a good person. Generosity is something more than that.
I remember shortly after I taught my kids that word, my son was interacting with my sister-in-law and she did something for him. I can’t remember what it was but he said to her, “That is so generous,” because he had learned that definition … I think what he was essentially saying was, “Wow, I didn’t expect you to give me two cookies,” or whatever it was… “That’s going above and beyond!”
That’s how I think about generosity. The key is giving more than what is expected.
GR: I would bet, going back to those memories you have of delivering the Christmas dinner to a family in need, that was probably your favorite part of Christmas.
Mrs. Dill: Yes, that’s true. We always felt very full after that.
GR: Would you like to see your own grand-daughter sitting in your chair someday? What family words of advice would you give to her?
Mrs. Dill: Well the answer is yes! I have four sons so I’m hoping for a grand-daughter someday! My advice is, and this is advice I already give to my sons, or to any of our younger family members who are involved with the foundation, is to go and get a degree in something. Having that raw knowledge and those raw skills really can contribute to the work here.
GR: Will you have them read all of Sir John’s books?
Mrs. Dill: My oldest son just turned thirteen and I did give him a copy of The Templeton Plan. I’ve seen him crack it open a bit. We’ll see where that goes.
GR: Well, it was such a pleasure getting to speak with you. And thank you from the bottom of our hearts here at Gratitude Revealed for letting us do this important work of spreading gratitude in a specific and measurable way. We couldn’t have done it without the support of The John Templeton Foundation.
Mrs. Dill: My pleasure. I’ve really enjoyed the conversation!
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About: Gratitude Revealed is an unprecedented journey into the science, mystery and building blocks of gratitude. In a series of 16 film shorts, acclaimed filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg shows us not only what these ideas look like, but how they can be expressed in our daily lives. This project was made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation. The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley (GGSC) has attached evidence-based practices to each video to ensure that the viewer has a place to go even when the video ends. This journey begins with gratitude but the destination is entirely up to you, the viewer. Start your journey by clicking here.