April 4th, 2013
12:51 AM ET
By the CNN Wire Staff
The Templeton Prize "honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works," the John Templeton Foundation says on its website.
Desmond Mpilo Tutu, the son of a schoolteacher and a domestic servant, was ordained a priest in 1961.
In 1975, he became the first black priest appointed Anglican dean of St. Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg.
He became bishop of Lesotho the following year, and in 1978 he was named the first black secretary general of the interdenominational South African Council of Churches.
Tutu, now 81, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his efforts to end and heal the wounds of apartheid, South Africa's system of institutionalized racial segregation.
South African President Nelson Mandela appointed him to lead South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The affable icon served as Archbishop of Cape Town - overseeing the church throughout South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland and Lesotho - from 1986 until his retirement in 1996. He retired from public life in 2010.
He is the founder of the Desmond Tutu Peace Trust and a member of The Elders, a group of elder statesmen from around the world who work to solve global problems.
Other members of the group include Jimmy Carter, Kofi Annan, Mary Robinson and Mohammed Yunus.
Tutu was successfully treated in the United States for prostate cancer in 1997.
He has served as a visiting professor at Emory University in Atlanta and Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
President Barack Obama awarded Tutu the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation awarded him a $1 million prize for "his lifelong commitment to speaking truth to power."
Sir John Templeton was a Tennessee-born Rhodes Scholar who made billions on Wall Street.
He was a pioneer in mutual funds, establishing the Templeton Growth Fund in 1954.
He established the Templeton Prize in 1972, seeking to encourage exploration of spiritual ideas, particularly as they relate to science.
"I grew up as a Presbyterian," he once told an interviewer, according to his foundation. "Presbyterians thought the Methodists were wrong. Catholics thought all Protestants were wrong. The Jews thought the Christians were wrong.
"So, what I'm financing is humility. I want people to realize that you shouldn't think you know it all."
To emphasize the importance of spirituality, Templeton insisted that the monetary award for his foundation's prize - currently 1.1 million British pounds, or $1,656,402 - always exceed that of the Nobel Prize ($1.2 million in 2012).
The Dalai Lama was awarded the Templeton Prize last year.
Previous honorees include Mother Teresa in 1973, the first year it was awarded, evangelist Billy Graham (1982), author Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1983), and physicist Freeman Dyson (2000).
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