Las Golondrinas welcomes new boss

SANTA FE, NM – I remember 20 years ago when Las Golondrinas, a fabulous living museum on the cutting edge of Santa Fe and cusp of the past few centuries, found its new executive director in the imposing person of John Berkenfield.

He was a retired IBM executive from New York with a folk art collection and a love of all things Southwestern who needed something to do.

So he took on getting Las Golondrinas (The Swallows) the fame and attention it deserves for its living exhibits, historic reenactments and preservation.

So why should he want to retire now? A bittersweet party for 150 museum supporters welcomed new executive director Dawn St. George, who also wondered why he might like to travel, visit his grandchildren and serve on his many boards – but she snapped up the job anyway when he offered it. From all John’s friends: Bye Kid!

Finally, a miracle: Since 1999, when the doctors told Xavier Horan he would never walk again after the tragic auto accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down and a paraplegic at 16, the community has been hoping for a miracle. This remarkable young man was previously mentioned in our Adaptive Ski Program story.

Nothing has stopped Xaxier from excelling in life: He drives himself in a specialized SUV; he skis, remember; and he is a talented movie sound editor, dividing his time between L.A. and Santa Fe. Oh, yes – his team won the Oscar for sound in “The Bourne Ultimatum” … and he is always, always cheerful and optimistic, with a big smile on his face.

Saturday night’s benefit at Hotel Santa Fe announced the miracle … the chance for Xie to walk again with the help of a state-of-the-art wearable robot suit. About 100 “Lovers of Xavier ” attended the Santa Fe unveiling of the miracle machine.

I was expecting the bionic exoskeleton suit to look like the Ironman contraption, with Xavier galumphing around in a big steel astronaut enclosure.

But no. It consists of lightweight leg and arm braces attached to a backpack computer system controlled by hand mechanisms. It was modeled by Amanda Boxtel who, like Xavier, is permanently injured and in a wheelchair. She spoke of the joy of just being out of her chair and upright again, using her limbs, the childish glee of taking a step forward.

Before using the suit, Xavier must train extensively on a special “Galileo” machine that will prepare his atrophied leg muscles to bear his weight. The Galileo will cost $19,000.

Saturday night, $10,000 was raised under the umbrella of the Tessa Horan Foundation (yes, same family). The foundation was founded in memory of Xavier’s sister Tessa, a Peace Corps volunteer in Tonga died from a shark attack in 2006.

This family has seen tragedy like few since Job. (What an opportunity to count your blessings!) And one party will not raise the funds needed for the Galileo machine and the exoskeleton suit … . There will be a major fundraiser later in the year. Keep watch on the website

Saturday night, it was also announced that, once trained up, Xavier plans to go out into the world as an ambassador, demonstrating the suit to wheelchair-bound people everywhere and sharing the miracle that many more might someday also walk again.

Prez leaving St. John’s – but it’s time to donate: Hunt House. St. John’s College. Residence of the President. On a balmy Wednesday twilight, Aug. 20, overlooking the city of Santa Fe through mature cottonwoods and a perennial paradise, a very comfortable garden party takes place for supporters of The College.

It is dreamy, with delicious refreshments and scintillating people to visit with, puffy white clouds in the crisp blue sky and a nice breeze, just a perfect Santa Fe summer.

And then The President – Dr. Michael Peters – ascends a garden wall and announces that, for the 50th anniversary of St. John’s southwest campus being built in Santa Fe, a major donor has offered a matching grant for funds donated this year (fabulous!).

If ever there was a time you wanted to contribute to this marvelous institution and asset to our community, NOW would be the most advantageous time to do it! Well, duh!

And then, by the way, says Dr. Peters, he and Eleanor will be leaving, after this, his tenth year. “A qualified search committee is busy,” we’re told. They want to spend more time near family in New York. And who can blame them? But it was stunning. (The crowd was stunned.)

And the sky filled with clouds all of a sudden … .

The college’s website is

Ashley Margetson has a BA in English from UCLA, is a senior real estate broker with Sotheby’s International Realty and has a finger on the pulse of philanthropic activities in Santa Fe. To tell us about an upcoming event, email


Les and Lisa Samuels at the St. John’s party.



Sharif Sert and his wife Megan. Sharif is an old friend of Xavier’s.


Kristina Prater is Xavier’s mom.


Walter Sterling enjoys a great summer night in Santa Fe at St. John’s.


Shy and retiring John Berkenfield is retiring as director of El Rancho de las Golondrinas.


Dawn St. George is the new executive director at Las Golondrinas.



Mary Dare and Oren Ellis are patrons of St. John’s College.


Jacqueline Grayson, Xavier’s nurse, and her husband Mark.


Xavier Horan with Amanda Boxtel, an ambassador for Ekso Bionics.


Xavier’s father, Kevin Horan.


Dr. Michael Peters, president of St. John’s College, announces his retirement at a party for the college’s supporters Wednesday.

PETERS: Announced his departure at event.


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