John Matthew Upledger (left) and his father, John E. Upledger, D.O.

John Matthew Upledger, CEO and chairman of the board of directors of Upledger Institute International (UII), passed away at his home in Palm Beach Gardens on May 21, losing a two-year battle with cancer.

UII is the organization dedicated to educating manual therapists on the CranioSacral Therapy technique developed by his father, John E. Upledger. D.O. Upledger Institute International is also a member organization of the International Alliance of Healthcare Educators (IAHE), which offers education, certifications and products in a variety of modalities.

John Matthew Upledger had been involved in UII for more than 30 years, in areas including clinical services and education.

A statement published online by UII notes that John Matthew Upledger “was known for his incredible sense of humor, his passion for life and a good party! He loved the music of the 70s and 80s, and was passionate about his Miami Dolphins and MSU Spartans. Most of all, he was known for his incredible compassion and generosity. From staff to friends, he always made time to listen and then, with great empathy and kindness, offer advice that was wise beyond his years. His big-heartedness and loyalty were just two of the emblems of his larger-than-life personality.” (Read the statement in its entirety here.)

John Matthew Upledger was a proponent of the Dr. John E. Upledger Foundation, which had the mission to fund philanthropic efforts, including providing care to people in need; pioneering health programs and research; studying conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and autism; supporting dolphin-assisted therapy; and making education available to massage therapists. The foundation also educates the public and health professionals about John E. Upledger’s work and the therapists who practice it. (Donations to the foundation are accepted here:

He leaves behind his wife, Donna Stevens Upledger; a daughter, Miranda Skye Upledger; sister Leslie Upledger Ray (James); brother Michael Upledger (Lynne); and his mother, Beverly Roy Upledger. He was preceded in death by his brother, Mark, and his father John E. Upledger, D.O.

UII invites people to share memories and condolences on its Facebook page.

Celebration-of-life details will be provided soon.

In 2013, John Matthew Upledger shared his thoughts on progress made in the massage and bodywork field, and particularly CranioSacral Therapy, in an essay for MASSAGE Magazine:

“As a Profession, We Have Come Far,” by John Matthew Upledger:

It is said to really know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been.

Flash back to 1985 and a far different health care climate than we know today. Traditional medicine reigned supreme. Those who supported the health benefits of alternative approaches, such as massage or nutrition, were often labeled quacks.

Still, in that year, three visionaries in the field of complementary health care opened their doors for business: Robert and Judi Calvert launched MASSAGE Magazine and John E. Upledger, D.O., my father, established The Upledger Institute.

An osteopathic physician and surgeon, my father truly believed the human body had far more capabilities to self-heal than the medical community gave it credit for. He saw firsthand the power of gentle, intentioned touch on the body—and he determinedly set out to teach that philosophy and approach to practitioners of all disciplines. In fact, he always believed massage therapists were among the best candidates to practice complementary techniques, because their sense of touch was already so attuned.

Much has changed since 1985. MASSAGE Magazine is publishing its 200th issue. You are more likely to hear the word complementary than alternative used in conjunction with manual therapies. Complementary therapies are found in such world-renowned medical facilities as the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic. The National Institutes of Health now recognizes and studies the benefits of complementary and alternative medicine. And TIME magazine named my father an innovator to watch in the new millennium based on his work with manual therapies.

Within the Upledger Institute, now called Upledger Institute International, we have trained more than 100,000 health care professionals residing in more than 100 countries. Of these, by far the largest contingent represented is massage therapists—just as my father envisioned.

Beyond massage therapists, the diversity of practitioners using and supporting manual therapies is tremendous—from medical doctors who use them as noninvasive treatments for numerous ailments, to pediatric nurses who apply the gentle techniques on fragile infants and children, to psychologists and social workers who use specific applications to enhance results in talk therapy.

In many cases, clinical practices now regularly employ massage therapists to enhance their health care options—something extremely rare in 1985.

By knowing the past, we can see how far we have come as a profession in a short period of time. This knowledge should fuel our passion for the work we do.