John Templeton Foundation logo.

John M. Templeton Jr.,  president and chairman of the John Templeton Foundation, died May 16 due to complications from cancer, according to a statement from the foundation. He was 75 years old.

Though the Templeton Foundation is not a religious foundation, it awards grants to many religious individuals and institutions. It focuses on what it calls “Science and the Big Questions,” and has regularly funds projects that explore connections between science and religion.

The leadership of the foundation is expected to remain within the family.

During Templeton’s 20 years as president, the foundation’s endowment grew from $28 million to $3.34 billion. In 2014, it awarded 188 grants mostly to major universities and scholars worldwide. The foundation has awarded $966 million in grants and charitable activities since it was created. It awarded $103 million in 2013, the last year for which figures are available, ranking it 55th in total giving of U.S. foundations, according to the Foundation Center.

Before he led his father’s foundation, Templeton was a pediatric surgeon and director of the trauma program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. His father, Sir John Templeton, a global investor and philanthropist who created the Templeton Fund in 1954, died in 2008.  

Templeton was an evangelical who attended a church in the Presbyterian Church of America, a theologically conservative Presbyterian denomination. His father, who was part of the Presbyterian Church (USA), took a broad view of spirituality and ethics and was influenced by the Unity School of Christianity, a movement that espouses a non-literal view of heaven and hell and a shared divinity between God and humanity.

The foundation awards an annual Templeton Prize, a value of about $1.7 million, making it one of the world’s largest annual awards given to an individual (and intended to surpass the monetary value of Nobel Peace Prize). It honors a living person who has made contributions to life’s spiritual dimension. The 2015 prize was recently given to Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, an international network for people with intellectual disabilities.

Some scientists have objected to receiving funding from the Templeton Foundation for its funding practices. For instance, Daniel Dennett, co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University, said he will not appear at the World Science Festival because he objected to some of its past grantees.

Templeton was the oldest of three children of Sir John Templeton. He began considering a career in medicine during a summer internship in 1960 at a Presbyterian medical mission in Cameroon. He trained in pediatric surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia from 1973 to 1975 under the hospital’s surgeon-in-chief, C. Everett Koop, who later became U.S. surgeon general from 1982 to 1989.

During his time at Children’s Hospital, the hospital gained an international reputation for its patients with conjoined twinning. Templeton performed numerous surgeries on conjoined twins.

While at the foundation, he served on a range of boards, including the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Foreign Policy Research Institute, American Trauma Society and the National Bible Association. The Becket Fund was the organization behind last year’s Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case.

In 2008, Templeton and his wife donated $1 million to the Proposition 8 campaign that barred same-sex marriage in California, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, which described Templeton as “a major donor to conservative causes and the Republican Party.”

Templeton is survived by his wife, Pina, their daughters Heather Dill and Jennifer Simpson, six grandchildren and his brother, Christopher.

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