Marilyn 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] She was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 1996.[4]

Marilyn Van Derbur
Marilyn Van Derbur
Marilyn Elaine Van Derbur

(1937-06-16) June 16, 1937
Alma materUniversity of Colorado at Boulder
PredecessorMarian McKnight
SuccessorMary Ann Mobley
Gary Austin Nady
(m. 1961; div. 1962)

Lawrence Atlivaick Atler (m. 1964)

In 2011, she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award.[5] She founded the Survivor United Network (SUN),[6] and authored Miss America By Day: Lessons Learned from Ultimate Betrayals and Unconditional Love,[7][8] 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.[9]


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[10][11] and hosted 10 episodes of Candid Camera. She was the television hostess for the Miss America Pageant for five years.

When Van Derbur was 53, she revealed that she was an incest survivor/victim of sexual assault by her father from age 5 to 18.[12] Within weeks, over 3,000 men and women came forward in the greater Denver area for help and support. She founded an organization called SUN (Survivor United Network). She contributed to and raised tens of thousands of dollars. When People magazine put her picture on the cover, there was a national outpouring from survivors who turned to her for help and support.

During the past 20 years, she has spoken in over 500 cities. She wrote a book, Miss America By Day, in which, using her experiences and research, she shares knowledge and insights on incest. It 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. Miss America By Day won the 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 seventh printing and is being used as a textbook in colleges in social work and child development classes.


  1. Marling, Karal Ann (2004). Debutante: Rites and Regalia of American Debdom. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas. p. 146. ISBN 978-0700613175. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  2. "Nation's Fairest Compete For Role Of Miss America". Rock Hill Herald. August 30, 1958. Retrieved June 7, 2010.
  3. Jeanne Varnell; M. L. Hanson (1999). Women of consequence: Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. Boulder, Colo.: Johnson Books. pp. 246–52. ISBN 9781555662141. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  4. Colorado Women's Hall of Fame, Marilyn Van Derbur Atler
  5. "National Philanthropy Day Colorado". Retrieved 2015-12-27.
  6. Trish Kinney (March 18, 2010). "Standing with Miss America 1958". Huffington Post (Blog). Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  7. "Responding effectively to abuse". Herald Palladium. May 3, 2010. Retrieved June 7, 2010.
  8. Profile,; accessed December 15, 2014.
  9. "Crowning Achievement". Retrieved 2015-12-27.
  10. David Holthouse (June 24, 2004). "CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT". Westword. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  11. "The Darkest Secret". People magazine. June 10, 1991. Retrieved January 11, 2016.
  12. Tauber, Michelle; Neill, Mike; Russell, Lisa; Fowler, Joanne; Dam, Julie; Tresniowski, Alex; Miller, Samantha; Dougherty, Steve; Yu, Ting (October 16, 2000). "American Beauties: 80 Years". People.
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Marian McKnight
Miss America
Succeeded by
Mary Ann Mobley
Preceded by
Polly Childs
Miss Colorado
Succeeded by
Cynthia Cullen
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