Marilyn was born in Newport News, Virginia and grew up in Guthrie, Oklahoma. She earned a BA in Education from Oklahoma State University and an MS in Education from Wichita State University. She taught secondary language arts for many years before becoming a professional union negotiator and organizer for teachers in Oklahoma and California. She retired from the California Teachers Association in 2004 and is now an active Realtor in San Diego. 

Marilyn is a member of the Rotary Club of La Mesa Sunrise, was president in 2009-10, and has served District 5340 as Assistant Governor, Public Image Chair and Executive Aide to the District Governor. She has been a PETS facilitator and Rotary Leadership Institute facilitator. 

She found her passion for Rotary in Kenya and Mexico participating in club and District projects. Locally she has initiated and participated in many projects benefiting senior citizens, disabled veterans and foster children. 

She is a multiple Paul Harris Fellow and Bequest Society member. 

Her husband Jack Cottrell is also from Oklahoma, is a Rotarian and member of the Rotary Club of Old Mission (San Diego). Together they have six grandchildren in California and Oklahoma.