Marilyn Van Derbur

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Marilyn Van Derbur
Marilyn Van Derbur
Marilyn Van Derbur
Born (1937-06-16) June 16, 1937 (age 78)
Denver, Colorado, U.S.
Nationality American
Alma mater University of Colorado
Title Miss America 1958
Predecessor Marian McKnight
Successor Mary Ann Mobley
Spouse(s) Gary Austin Nady
(1 June 1961 - 6 March 1962) (divorced)
Lawrence Atlivaick Atler
(14 February 1964 - present) (1 child)
Children Jennifer Atler
Parent(s) Francis S. Van Derbur
Gwendolyn Olinger Van Derbur

Marilyn Elaine Van Derbur (born June 16, 1937) is the Miss Colorado 1957,[1] 1958 Miss America pageant holder,[2][3] author and motivational speaker.[3] In 2011, she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.[4] She founded the Survivor United Network (SUN),[5] and authored Miss America By Day: Lessons Learned from Ultimate Betrayals and Unconditional Love,[6][7] which spent 13 weeks on Colorado's top ten non-fiction bestsellers list and was awarded the Writer's Digest Most Inspirational Book award (first place) in 2003.[8]


Marilyn Van Derbur was born on June 16, 1937 in Denver, Colorado.[2] After being crowned Miss America in 1958, Marilyn returned to the University of Colorado and graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors. After graduation, she moved to New York City where she was the television spokeswoman for AT&T's The Bell Telephone Hour[9][10] and hosted ten shows of Candid Camera. In addition, she was the television hostess for The Miss America Pageant for five years.

She became a motivational speaker in her early 20's. By her mid 30's, Marilyn had been chosen “The Outstanding Woman Speaker in America."

Marilyn’s worst nightmare came true when she was 53. A newspaper reporter learned she was an incest survivor and the next morning it was a front page story in The Denver Post. Her millionaire, socially prominent father had started coming into her room at night when she was 5. It didn’t stop until she was 18.

Within weeks, over 3,000 men and women came forward in the greater Denver area for help and support. Marilyn immediately founded an organization called SUN (Survivor United Network). She contributed to and raised tens of thousands of dollars. Up to 500 people came to SUN each week for 35 different support groups. Everything was free.

When People magazine put her picture on the cover, there was a national outpouring from survivors who turned to her for help and support. She opened the door for tens of thousands of sexual abuse survivors to also speak the words, many for the first time.

During the past 20 years, Marilyn has spoken in over 500 cities. She never leaves the room until men and women have personally said everything they want and need to say to her.

The culmination of Marilyn’s work is her book, Miss America By Day. Using her experiences as the scaffolding and cutting edge research as the foundation, she shares knowledge and insights through stories that are riveting and instructive in her book: Miss America By Day.

It also received an international “media award” for the best-written book on dissociation by a professional association that networks internationally with top clinicians, educators and researchers.

Marilyn spends hours each day responding to survivors. She has answered over 8,000 letters and tens of thousands of emails. Many survivors have written to her on a weekly basis for years. She continues to answer each letter and email until the survivors feel strong enough to move on with their lives.

The culmination of Marilyn’s work is her book, Miss America By Day which won the prestigious Writer’s Digest award. Of the 1,900 books entered into the national competition, it won first place in the “most inspirational book” category.It is in its 7th printing and is being used as a textbook in colleges in Social Work and Child Development classes.


Year Title Role Notes
2006 CMT: Greatest Miss America Moments (TV Special) Herself
1967 The Match Game (TV Series) Team Captain Season 5, Episodes 129-133
1962 The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (TV Series) Herself Episode dated 25 October 1962
1961 The Bell Telephone Hour (TV Series) Herself - Host Season 3, Episode 6
Season 3, Episode 14
1958 Miss America Pageant (TV Movie) Herself (Miss America)
1957 Person to Person (TV Series documentary) Herself Season 5, Episode 8


  1. ^ Marling, Karal Ann (2004). Debutante: Rites and Regalia of American Debdom. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. p. 146. ISBN 978-0700613175. Retrieved 11 January 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Nation's Fairest Compete For Role Of Miss America". Rock Hill Herald. August 30, 1958. Retrieved June 7, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Jeanne Varnell; M. L. Hanson (1999). Women of consequence : the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. Boulder, Colo.: Johnson Books. pp. 246–252. ISBN 9781555662141. Retrieved 10 January 2016. 
  4. ^ "National Philanthropy Day Colorado". Retrieved 2015-12-27. 
  5. ^ Trish Kinney (March 18, 2010). "Standing with Miss America 1958". Huffington Post (Blog). Retrieved 11 January 2016. 
  6. ^ "Responding effectively to abuse". Herald Palladium. May 3, 2010. Retrieved June 7, 2010. 
  7. ^ Profile,; accessed December 15, 2014.
  8. ^ "Crowning Achievement". Westword. Retrieved 2015-12-27. 
  9. ^ David Holthouse (June 24, 2004). "CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT". Westword. Retrieved 8 January 2016. 
  10. ^ "The Darkest Secret". People magazine. June 10, 1991. Retrieved 11 January 2016. 

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Marian McKnight
Miss America
Succeeded by
Mary Ann Mobley
Preceded by
Polly Childs
Miss Colorado
Succeeded by
Cynthia Cullen