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Higher purpose

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By Ret Boney

August Turak, a North Carolina businessman and nonprofit founder, was awarded the $100,000 grand prize in September for the “Power of Purpose Awards” essay competition held by the John Templeton Foundation.

The new competition, which awards cash prizes to five individuals for outstanding essays, is “designed to encourage people to think about the benefits of noble purpose where purpose is defined as something more important than our simple survival, something not merely intellectual, but in our souls,” according to Lionheart Books, the company that administered the contest.

Turak’s essay recounts his experience with a Trappist monk during a spiritual retreat at a monastery and the far-reaching effects the encounter had on his life.

“I wasn’t planning on the grand prize,” he says.  “I’m going to give it to charity.”

The foundation, started by global mutual-fund developer Sir John Templeton, has assets of about $850 million and gives away about $40 million a year to support programs and projects that “promote the scientific exploration of the spiritual nature of the human person,” says Pamela Thompson, the foundation’s vice president for communications.

The foundation sponsors several similar competitions and awards, the largest being the Templeton Prize, awarded at Buckingham Palace by Prince Philip “for progress toward research or discovery about spiritual reality,” Thompson says, with a prize in excess of $1 million.

Turak, who lives on a farm in Franklinton, N.C., started a software reselling and publishing company in the Triangle and retired in 2002 to spend more time on his theological studies and the Self Knowledge Symposium Foundation, a nonprofit he started to help college students incorporate their personal, ethical and spiritual values into their daily lives.

The full text of the winning essays can be viewed online at www.powerofpurose.org.

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