Sunday, January 25, 2015

Miss Colfax turned Miss America

Marilyn Van Derbur, graduate of East High School on Colfax Avenue, was crowned Miss America while she was a student at the University of Colorado in 1958. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree, with Phi Beta Kappa honors.

Van Derbur chose motivational speaking as her career and was later named "Outstanding Woman Speaker in America" after 30,000 questionnaires were sent to business and civic meeting planners asking whom they considered to be the outstanding speaker. For 16 years, she was the only woman guest lecturer for General Motors.

Marilyn has received numerous awards and acknowledgments for her work, including being the first woman to be given the highest speaking award possible by the National Speakers Association and induction into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. With a desire to motivate teenagers as well as executives, Marilyn also became United Air Lines "Youth Speaker" and addressed 50 youth conferences each year.

During the course of her exceptional motivational speaking career Van Derbur has produced 24 films, two of which won national and international awards. One was shown on prime-time PBS and eight others have been shown in hundreds of classrooms. Marilyn is requested nationwide as a prominent convention keynote and motivational speaker, now speaking on the topic of sexual abuse prevention and recovery.

As a childhood incest survivor, she has devoted much of her adult life to raising national awareness and understanding of sexual abuse and its long-term effects. In 1989 her family funded an adult incest survivor program in Denver, and in 1993 she co-founded two national not-for-profit organizations dedicated to public education and strengthening laws protecting victims of sexual abuse.

For her tireless work in the area of childhood sexual trauma awareness Marilyn has received many awards and much recognition including, the "Exceptional Achievement in Public Service from the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Washington D.C.". Since her story of incest became public, Marilyn has spoken in more than 235 cities and answered over 8,000 letters and thousands of emails from survivors looking to her for support.

Marilyn and her husband Larry live in Denver.

You can email Marilyn any time at She always answers all of her emails. Please limit your comments to one paragraph so Marilyn can continue to personally answer all her emails.

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