Wade Thomas Cathey, Jr. received his BS and MS degrees in Electrical Engineering from the University of South Carolina in 1961. He attended Yale University and received his PhD in 1963, and then worked at Autonetics Research Center in Anaheim, California, before moving to Boulder, Colorado. Cathey became a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder and Denver campuses. His book, Optical Information Processing and Holography, published in 1974 was considered the seminal book in the field. Cathey was the Director of the NSF Engineering Research Center for Optoelectronic Computing Systems (OCS) from 1987-1993. He was co-founder of both CDM Optics and Ubifocal and was awarded 23 patents during his career.
Cathey received numerous awards among them being a Fellow of the Society, the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers, and IEEE. He was also a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Tau Beta Pi. Cathey served on a number of Committees including the Board of Editors (1997-78); Fellow Members Committee (1993); and Publications Council Member (1979). He was the recipient of the 2013 Joseph Fraunhofer Award/Robert M. Burley Prize.