Coming Full Circle: Retired Researcher Now Funds Research

Marianne Kipper standing outside in a natural setting

Marianne Kipper knows too well the importance of fighting cancer from every angle. Losing her mother to pancreatic cancer, a brother to colon cancer, and a second to acute lymphocytic leukemia, the fight is intensely personal. She also knows research can outsmart cancer.

A graduate from Chatham College in 1961 with a BSc in chemistry, and the University of California, Berkeley, in 1966 with a PhD in organic chemistry, her career path included post-doctoral fellowships at the University of California, Davis, and the University of Washington; process development with Parke Davis pharmaceuticals; research at the Ford Scientific Laboratory; and 25 years as a staff research scientist at UCLA. But it was her 50th birthday that started a chain of events leading to more than 25 years as an American Cancer Society volunteer and Laureate Society member.

Marianne's husband purchased her a new car on that birthday. She decided to donate her old car to the American Cancer Society, and that transaction led to a long-term partnership. In 1990, Marianne was invited to sit on the Society's Coastal Unit Board in California. She jumped in, became heavily involved in the anti-tobacco movement, and eventually served on the Los Angeles Regional Board. At the time, she began organizing and hosting small brunches featuring a speaker to educate and steward ACS donors in the LA Coastal Unit area. But that was just the beginning.

My job was not to judge the science, but to always be sympathetic, keeping donors, patients, and survivors in mind while looking at a project.

Marianne Kipper

After moving to Colorado and retiring in 1999, Marianne remained connected to the American Cancer Society and was soon asked to serve as an ACS research stakeholder. Stakeholders are patients, volunteers, investors, survivors, and caregivers who represent the voice of patients on scientific and health professional training peer-review committees. Each year, these committees evaluate and select the best science to receive research and training grants. As a stakeholder, Marianne was prone to choosing high-risk projects that could reap high benefits, and recalls her focus remained true: "My job was not to judge the science, but to always be sympathetic, keeping donors, patients, and survivors in mind while looking at a project." Marianne not only served on the peer review committee, but the Council of Extramural Grants, and on the Great West Division Board. In 2006, she stepped up to fight again, bringing together groups of friends, family, and acquaintances to directly invest in approved, but unfunded, American Cancer Society “Pay-If” research grants. Marianne's fundraising initiatives continue to be successful today.

The impact of Marianne’s tireless efforts, for nearly three decades, is invaluable. She has raised more than $1.9 million; funded 15 grants, including an IRG at the University of Colorado, for the American Cancer Society through the Roaring Fork Valley Research Fund; and led the funding of 42 Pay-If grants through the Great West Division – 10 on her own. Extraordinary efforts like Marianne’s ensure innovative science makes it to the bench.