Mimi Atwater was born in Davenport, Iowa, on May 9, 1931, the only child of Emogene (Chapman) and Gordon Ingham Atwater.
Her father was a petroleum geologist, and when she was seven years old, the family moved to New Orleans, where she later attended Metairie Park Country Day School from 1945 to 1949.
Following graduation from Metairie, she attended Smith College for two years. In the fall of 1959 Mimi enrolled at Columbia University where she intended to major in French, with plans to enter the Sorbonne in Paris the following year.
Unfortunately, a short time later fate dealt the Atwater family a devastating blow when Mimi suffered a cerebral hemorrhage. Her promising young life ended on February 20, 1960.
Her father and mother made many generous philanthropic gifts to different organizations as memorials to their beloved daughter, Mimi. A scholarship fund was established in her name at Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri. A jade collection was left to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A bequest comprised of a collection of Boehm porcelain birds displayed in an inlaid Empire cabinet went to the New Orleans Museum of Art in New Orleans. A collection of Civil War books was bequeathed to the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee. And when her father died in 1973, his will provided a major bequest to the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Foundation in her memory, a portion of which was used to endow the Marilyn “Mimi” Atwater Memorial Grant.