Melissa Ann Wilson Virts was born March 9, 1956, to Fred and Marcella Wilson in Lodi, Calif. She was the beloved younger sister of Stephanie Wilson Ranslow. Melissa 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 light bulb 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.
Stephanie is also a proud donor to her sister’s funds as the two were extremely close their entire lives. Stephanie also lost her beloved husband Paul Byers Ranslow, PhD, to prostate cancer in 2018, so supporting cancer research is especially meaningful to her.