Jack Templeton dies at age 75

Obituary | The former pediatric surgeon and head of the John Templeton Foundation sought to glorify his heavenly Father while honoring his earthly one
by Marvin Olasky
Posted 5/19/15, 11:34 am

John M. Templeton Jr., known as “Jack,” died Saturday of cancer at age 75. He was chairman and president of the John Templeton Foundation, named after his father, who made billions of dollars as a stock-picker and mutual fund pioneer.

Jack Templeton was a fine student, graduating from Yale and Harvard Medical School and training under Dr. C. Everett Koop at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He became a distinguished surgeon and chief of pediatric surgery at the hospital but retired in 1995 so as to direct Templeton Foundation activities. The foundation, one of America’s 100 largest, has given away close to $1 billion.

Templeton was able to direct giving up to a point. As an elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, he subscribed to the Westminster Confession of Faith from 1646, but as foundation head he was faithful to the eclectic and quasi-pantheistic wishes of his father, who died in 2008 at age 95 and once wrote that “the rate of spiritual development is accelerating. … We may be setting the stage for a great leap forward in our spiritual understanding.”

Templeton’s faithfulness was unusual in the foundation world: The Ford Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and many others hand stacks of bills to groups opposed to the beliefs of the entrepreneurs who piled up those stacks. But Templeton felt obliged to ask, in regard to each grant request, whether his father—known as Sir John after Great Britain knighted him in 1987—would have funded it.

John Seel, who until last week was director of cultural engagement for the Templeton Foundation, told me Jack Templeton “took donor intent to a whole new level. When I told him I was excited about coming to work for the foundation, he said, ‘You don’t work for the foundation. You work for Sir John.’”

Templeton in 2010, when I interviewed him for WORLD, would not talk about his father’s beliefs compared to his own, although the differences appear to have been substantial. For example, the Westminster Confession states, “It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create or make of nothing the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good.” But Sir John accepted Darwinist beliefs, and the Templeton Foundation bankrolled BioLogos, the leading proponent of theistic evolution.

Templeton may have had little choice, since his father created an extraordinary way to enforce Templeton Foundation faithfulness to his beliefs. Every five years, three independent analysts were to conduct a review to see if Templeton was making grants consistent with the father’s intent. If they found the son giving 9 percent or more of the grants to causes inconsistent with paternal intent, he had one year to get back into line. If not, he and his top two officers were to be fired.

Father and son were together in their support for free enterprise and educational competition, and Templeton showed no desire to buck his father’s intent in other areas. He saw such faithfulness as a way to honor his father, and he expressed his own views through personal giving, which he told me often “had something of a therapeutic nature to it.” He gave to trauma prevention programs and attempts to reduce substance abuse among youth. He also helped poor women, who he described as being “trapped in a deeply entrenched culture of the mental and the material reality of poverty.”

Peter Lillback, president of Westminster Theological Seminary, was formerly Templeton’s pastor at Proclamation Presbyterian Church in Bryn Mawr, Pa. Lillback this morning recalled, “When he offered the elder’s prayer on Sunday mornings that was given in conjunction with a biblical reading … he always had a written succinct exposition of the text that manifested deep faith, thoughtful preparation, love for Christ and a sincere engagement with Holy Scripture. … He especially was active in the stewardship committee of the church, emphasizing the interconnectivity of thrift and generosity. … His prayers were articulate but flowing from a deep and sincere trust and commitment to Christ.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in 2008 that Templeton and his wife Josephine (also a pediatrician) made the largest contribution, $1 million, in support of California’s Proposition 8, which amended the California constitution to state that a valid marriage in the state had to be between a man and a woman. Templeton’s contribution helped Prop 8 pass with 52 percent of the vote, but same-sex marriage nevertheless came to California through judicial fiat.

Templeton leaves behind his wife (known as “Pina”), daughters Heather Dill and Jennifer Simpson, and six grandchildren, along with his brother, Christopher.

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. His latest book is World View: Seeking Grace and Truth in Our Common Life. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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