Born in Auckland, New Zealand, Hunter received his early education in the public schools of his native country and the Auckland University College, where he earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees with first-class honors. Later he studied at various European universities including University College, London, which awarded him his Doctor of Science degree. Hunter traveled to the U.S. around 1907 in search of a woman he had met in Europe. While here he secured employment with the research laboratories of General Electric Company. The recession of 1908 terminated his future with the General Electric Company and he sought asylum on the budding campus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. From a modest beginning in 1908 as an instructor in the Electrical Engineering Department, he rose successively through the various academic ranks of assistant professor, associate professor and professor. He served for a period of five years as head of the Department of Electrical Engineering; he organized and served as head of the Department of Metallurgical Engineering for twelve years; and became Dean of Faculty. He has also been most instrumental in developing the postwar curricula of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and directed investigation of many metallurgical projects, some of which were of outstanding importance to the prosecution of WWII. By his rare humor, his clarity of presentation, his straightforwardness and honesty of purpose, he greatly enriched his teaching and administrative undertakings, thus endearing himself to several generations of Rensselaer alumni.
In 1959, Dr. Hunter received the Gold Medal of the American Society of Metals in recognition of a lifetime devoted to advancing metallurgical and engineering education, and of his ingenuity in applying science to the problems of the metal industries. Dr. Matthew A. Hunter died March 24, 1961 in Troy at the age of 82.