Remembering Kate Hunter

Members of MIT community reflect on their memories of Hunter

8412 img 4557 preview
Hunter at her first cycling race with clipless pedals.
Amanda Chen
8413 img 1
Hunter in the lab during her summer in Santiago, Chile.
Chris Sacha
8414 img 2
Hunter on top of a mountain ridge in El Valle de la Luna, San Pedro de Atacama in Chile.
Chris Sacha
8415 img 3
Hunter standing by the Laguna Tebinquinche, San Pedro de Atacama in Chile after the car she and Sacha were riding in broke down.
Chris Sacha
8416 img 5
Hunter and Sacha at Piedra del Coyote, San Pedro de Atacama in Chile.
Chris Sacha

Katherine “Kate” Hunter ’20 died unexpectedly after a brief illness Dec. 31 in Arizona surrounded by family, President Rafael L. Reif wrote in an email to the MIT community Jan. 3.

Originally from Newport Beach, California, Hunter majored in Course 6-3 (Computer Science and Engineering) at MIT and lived in Maseeh her freshman year before moving into the Sigma Kappa sorority house.

Hunter did research with the Haystack group at MIT CSAIL, was an officer of the Cycling Club, and participated in DanceTroupe. She spent last summer in Santiago as part of MISTI Chile. Hunter was also a member of the women’s lightweight crew team freshman year.

Even before Hunter set foot on campus, she made a lasting impression on people in the MIT community who had met her. “Kate’s infectiously positive personality was evident from our first meeting in Pierce Boathouse, the summer before her senior year of high school, when we recruited Kate as one of the top high school rowers in the country,” Claire Martin-Doyle, the women’s lightweight crew coach, wrote in an email to The Tech. “Kate’s enthusiastic drive to excel at both academics and athletics was a model for other student athletes, and her dedication to advancing these passions continued as an MIT student-athlete.”

Jada Griffith ’20 first met Hunter during Campus Preview Weekend in April 2016, and the two had been friends since then. “She’s the type of person you’ll only be lucky enough to meet once in your life. She had that electric smile, the kind that makes you instantly want to become friends. Her face was the one I’d look forward to seeing the most every day at MIT,” Griffith wrote in an email to The Tech.

Alexa Jan ’20 also met Hunter during CPW. “I met Kate at CPW as a pre-frosh, and since then, we’ve rowed on the same team, worked on random passion projects together, and talked about nothing and everything until late,” Jan wrote in an email to The Tech. “Kate was so hardworking and yet always fun to be around, cheering me up whenever I was down and never without her cup of black coffee. She was an amazing friend, teammate, and classmate who made the lives of everyone she met a little bit brighter and better.”

As a freshman, Hunter qualified for the Lightweight Four for the 2016 Head of the Charles. Her crew finished in third place and was the first U.S. collegiate finisher in a field of top Division I and elite lightweight crews, according to Martin-Doyle.

Hunter then joined the Cycling Club in the spring of her freshman year. Amanda Chen G, who joined at the same time, recalled Hunter’s resilience and enthusiasm when she adapted to using clipless pedals, which fix the shoe and bike pedal together when engaged. “Usually, people struggle with engaging and disengaging clipless pedals for weeks, often first exploring on grass in case of accidents before riding on the road. But Kate was fearless, and enthusiastically jumped into her first race with clipless pedals,” Chen wrote in an email to The Tech. “Despite falling over on the start line, she never lost her smile, and instead got up and kept going until she crossed the finish line in great triumph.”

Laura Treers ’18, also part of the Cycling Club, remembered the coffee rides and lunches in the dining hall with Hunter. “She was a great riding buddy: she always had a smile on her face, and was so excited to be exploring the world on her bike. She always had great stories to tell, and had a great sense of humor,” Treers wrote in an email to The Tech.

Chris Sacha ’19 worked with Hunter last summer at a makerspace at Universidad del Desarrollo in Santiago through MISTI Chile. Hunter was working on air sensors in a rural community that relies on wood-burning ovens, according to Reif. “In fact, most of my favorite moments came from the misadventures — like when any car we rode a long distance in broke down, and how the smile didn't fade from her face as we proclaimed it was another aventura. Or the small things — when we went out for milkshakes and fries after work one Friday, and all of a sudden I was sharing parts of my life I had never told to anyone else,” Sacha wrote in an email to The Tech.

In addition, Hunter did research with the Haystack group. Lea Verou G, Kate’s UROP project leader, said, “Kate was special in the visible joy and enthusiasm that she brought to the learning and making that she did in our group.”

Madeline Abrahams ’20 first met Hunter when they both did the Freshman Leadership Program, but they were also part of the same dance in DT last semester. “Kate and I stood next to each other at the beginning of the dance, and right before we were going to start dancing, she would always give me such an encouraging smile. I felt so much more confident to be on stage when she was nearby,” Abrahams said. “ I will miss her so much and I wish I could go to DT practice on Sunday at 10 and dance with her one more time.”

Hunter was a sister of SK. SK President Madison Darmofal ’19 wrote in an email to The Tech, “She always had a smile on her face — in the boat, on the dance floor, in the kitchen, and in the chapter room on movie nights. It’s hard to picture all of these places without her in them, and we should all consider ourselves incredibly lucky to have had the chance to know her and to be her sorority sister and friend.”

Hunter’s loss may have shocked the MIT community, but the people who knew her will remember her life and the times they had together with her. “Now, I feel like I’ve lost some part of myself,” Griffith said. “But despite it all, I will always smile when I think of the many memories we made. And as long as she can still make me smile, I don’t think she can ever have truly left my side.”

Members of the MIT community can access MIT student support resources and Mental Health Services at, or via phone at 617-253-2916 during the day and at 617-253-4481 during nights and weekends.