At the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center, we know that research saves lives. We also know that a lack of research allows cancer to steal wonderful and beloved people from our lives. Melissa Virts is one such person who sadly died of a rare cancer of the biliary ducts for which there has been very little research. Melissa’s husband, IU School of Medicine alumnus Kip Virts, MD, has chosen to create a legacy for her at IU through the creation of the Melissa Ann Virts and Kip E. Virts Endowed Cholangiocarcinoma Research Chair and the Melissa Ann Virts and Kip E. Virts Endowed Cholangiocarcinoma Research Fund. Dr. Virts’ extraordinarily generous gifts will undoubtedly allow our gastrointestinal research team to make research discoveries that will save lives.
A Legacy of Love
Melissa Ann Wilson Virts was born March 9, 1956, to Fred and Marcella Wilson in Lodi, Calif. She graduated with distinction from Lodi High School and initially attended one year of community college in San Joaquin. She then studied nursing at UCLA until her junior year in 1977, when she transferred to the two-year nursing program at nearby Mount St. Mary's University. She graduated in 1979 as the top nursing graduate, receiving the Mount St. Mary's University Clinical Excellence Award. Melissa passed her written nursing boards in 1980.
Kip Edward Virts was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., on Feb. 2, 1956, to Donald and Patricia Virts. At just 10 years old, Kip broke a national record in the 100m breaststroke. He attended New Haven High School, where he was a high-caliber, state champion swimmer. He received an athletic scholarship to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and swam for the famous George Haines, a coach who trained 58 Olympians over four decades.
Kip and Melissa met at UCLA in January 1976 in a Biology 101 lab. When fate seated him across from Melissa – the most beautiful woman he had ever seen – Kip purposefully sabotaged his microscope by damaging the tungsten on the lightbulb so he had to partner with Melissa rather than use his own equipment. It was love at first sight for Kip, and the duo was inseparable from that point forward.
Kip and Melissa were engaged the summer of 1978 after Kip was accepted to Indiana University School of Medicine. Kip knew they would be separated for a year while Melissa was completing nursing school and wanted to make certain his commitment to her was clear. The soulmates were married on July 21, 1979, in Santa Monica.
Kip and Melissa were inseparable for more than 46 years. The Virtses understood that they enjoyed the rarest of marriages – they agreed on everything and were a perfect match. They had a very loving relationship and had each other's backs through thick and thin. Kip describes Melissa as his sentinel and his lighthouse beacon; she was his everything. Though she has tragically died, Kip continues to love her deeply. They always said to one another: It’s You and Me, Me and You. Now, Kip takes solace that through the naming of this fund, their "You and Me" will continue in perpetuity and be focused on continuing the battle that she lost and giving back to the university that gave him his career
Ways to Give
There are many ways to support Melissa Ann Virts and Kip E. Virts Endowed Cholangiocarcinoma Research Chair:
Give online via credit card
To make a credit card gift, please call 812-855-8311 or 800-558-8311.
Give via check
Please make your check payable to “IU Foundation/Virts Research Fund” and mail to:
IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center
c/o IU Foundation
PO Box 7072
Indianapolis, IN 46207
If you have any questions or would like to give via cash wire, stock transfer, or donor-advised fund, please contact Amber Senseny at 317-278-4510.