Our Team

Samantha Rife/



As Principal, Samantha Rife leads SJR Research backed by more than 25 years of industry experience. Her background ranges from genealogical research to military history, her expertise in corporate history has helped countless corporations, nonprofit organizations, and community associations leverage their history to benefit their bottom line. Her business insight and laser-focused military research brings financial success to projects in the gaming industry as well. Since 2005, through expertise and business insight, Rife has brought together an exceptional team under SJR Research to serve all of your research needs.

James Rife/

Senior Historian


James P. Rife serves as a senior historian and project manager for SJR Research. In his twenty-year career, he has authored several books and excelled in helping clients produce historical content for a variety of mediums, from research to publication. Rife specializes in Native American treaties and land claims, and possesses extensive knowledge of the National Archives, its regional branches, and the Federal Records Center due to years of experience working with their vast textual, photographic, cartographic, and multimedia collections. As a public historian, Mr. Rife has performed research in federal, state, and local repositories, and worked closely with both military and civilian agencies to conduct onsite research at facilities throughout the country.

Hank Isaac/

Creative Partner


Hank Isaac has been regarded as a leader in the marketing communications and graphic design fields in the Washington DC area for more than 20 years, leading teams at both large creative agencies and small boutique firms. His branding and design work has been recognized in respected design annuals such as Print, and Communication Arts magazines. Hank has been involved in the creation and launch of many cross-media campaigns for National and global organizations such as the Smithsonian Institute, The World Bank, Audi USA, and many others. Hank earned a degree in Communication Arts & Design from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA.

Alexandra Jones/

Historic Preservation Partner


Alexandra Jones studied Art & Architecture History at Miami University before relocating to Scotland and attaining an MA in History from the University of Glasgow. She subsequently spent time working in England and Germany before returning to the USA. In Charleston, Alexandra worked with prominent historical organizations including the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Charleston Museum. She established Houselore in 2016, and has since provided historical research services to architectural firms and corporations in the USA, UK, Germany, France, and Austria while working on key negotiations as a liaison between developers and preservationists. She now focuses on providing consultation services along with independent investigative journalism.

Dru Neil/

Marketing Partner


Dru Neil brings impressive, real-world experience in marketing, communications and fundraising to the SJR Research team. As the Marketing and Communications Director for the Gettysburg Foundation, she raised $125 million for the construction and operation of the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, a tourism site hosting over 1 million annual visitors. Looking for media, PR, corporate history branding, or strategic outreach? Ms. Neil is the expert you want to have behind your company’s project.

Hilary Wehrle/

Cultural Resource Management Partner


SJR Research is proud to welcome Hilary Wehrle to our team. With a dynamic background in Anthropology and Historic Preservation, she has acted as a tribal liaison, an oral historian and cultural specialist. She has a passion for battle site preservation projects with a focus in civilian participation, as well as working on new and creative methods to support preservation and community building, in a culturally democratic framework.

Ray Barker/



Ray Barker has nearly 20 years’ worth of experience as an Archivist with an impressive list of clients. Barker has served as a military archivist for the US Department of Defense, project manager of the nation-wide archives project with the National Parks Service, and as department director at a modern art museum archives and library. When not working with SJR Research, Barker serves in Special Collections of a city public library conducting oral histories, hosting public programs, and supervising cataloging projects.

Gary Albyn/



Gary Albyn specializes in writing and research at SJR Research. With an impressive career as a pilot in the Rhodesian Air Force, and then later as a civil engineer, he still made time to pursue the completion of several award-winning works of non-fiction. At the prestigious SAPPI Book-of-the-Year Awards Ceremony in Johannesburg in 2010, Albyn received a Bronze Medal for his acclaimed title Manzovo- Place of the Elephants. Let Albyn bring your historical project to life through detail-driven, real world narrative.

Matthew R. Bishop/



We’re thrilled to welcome talented author and editor Matthew Bishop to our team. Prior to moving into creative writing, Bishop worked as the CEO of a foreign affairs policy INGO-NPO in Washington, D.C. His work took him around the world in close contact to kings and presidents, later serving as inspiration for his political fantasy works. Bishop has published two books, A Land of Our Own, and In the Shadows of Laeolin. Today Bishop works as the Chief Editor of Fantasy and Science Fiction for a major U.S. publishing house.

Tom Calarco/

Writer and Researcher


Tom Calarco joins the SJR Research team as a writer and researcher for client projects. In his own career, Calarco specializes in the Underground Railroad. He authored The Underground Railroad and the Adirondack Region, winning the 2008 Underground Railroad Free Press award. His latest collaboration uses the previously unpublished “Record of Fugitives” kept by Sidney Howard Gay to tell the story of the Underground Railroad in New York City. His 30 year career includes many major publications, with articles ranging from antiques, to classical music, to editorial-style profiles.

Sarah Carter/

Writer/Researcher/Oral Historian


Sarah Carter is a writer, researcher, and editor for SJR Research. Her passion for researching creative nonfiction has taken her from the home of an eighth-generation, Cherokee, cancer healer to Appalachian, iron-ore mines, and many places in between. Although her personal work centers on the American South, she has written books and music reviews, personal interest stories, conducted oral histories, and worked as a ghostwriter. Her full-length manuscript, Healing Out of the Air, explores folk healing traditions in Alabama.

Chris Heidenrich/



Chris Heidenrich, M.A., is a public historian, writer, and editor with more than 25 years of experience who documents local, state, and national history in the United States to tell important stories to broad audiences. Her public history work includes authorship of an eight-chapter illustrated history of Frederick, Md., many other complex historical analysis/writing projects that required adherence to budgets and deadlines, and museum exhibition text writing and editing. She has a master’s degree in public history from Loyola University Chicago and a graduate certificate in museum studies with an exhibitions concentration from George Washington University.

Michele Hollow/

Writer and Researcher


Michele C. Hollow is an award-winning writer with articles in The New York Times, Fusion, Woman’s Day, Parents, Folks, The Guardian, and other major print and online publications. She has authored books for Enslow Publishing and ghosted a book for a designer on the DIY Network. Her most recent book was a biography of the Grateful Dead. Her captivating narrative retelling of history helps dozens of nonprofits and corporations, from Purina to Travelers, communicate their past as they celebrate milestones and inspire their future.

Paul Kahan/

Writer and Researcher


Reviewers call Paul Kahan’s work “entertaining and accessible.” With a background of writing for diverse audiences and a long list of published works, Kahan’s work with clients shines with narrative brilliance. In his work with SJR Research, Dr. Kahan’s understanding of research methodology and keen eye for historical detail brings the past to life. Dr. Kahan earned his Ph.D. in history from Temple University, where he studied archival administration, public history, and oral history collection.

Jon Kelvey/



SJR Research is proud to add talented writer and journalist Jon Kelvey to our team. Mr. Kelvey is a freelance writer and journalist whose work has appeared in the Air & Space Magazine, The Baltimore Sun, Los Angeles Times, Cancer Today, Slate and Smithsonian, among other publications. He holds a BA in Cognitive Science from UC Berkeley and is a 13-year veteran of the California wine industry. Whether crafting a family history or a corporate story, Kelvey works with SJR turning hard research into compelling narrative.

Joey Kent/

Film Producer/Writer/Media Researcher


When it comes to storytelling and the creation of truly engaging, historically based media, there’s no one more qualified to tackle your project than Joey Kent. A veteran of the film industry, Kent has won over 75 international film festival awards for screenwriting and production. Kent is also responsible for establishing and maintaining the ongoing Louisiana Hayride Archives. Rolling Stone magazine called Hayrides “the most important collection of country music history still in private hands.” Music critics call Joey’s forthcoming coffee table book, “Cradle of the Stars, “painstakingly researched and passionately written”.

Heidi King/

Writer and Researcher


Heidi King began her career with Southern Living/Oxmoor House in Birmingham and has freelanced for many national publications. She has written several history books for Fortune 500 companies including Advance Auto Parts, Dominion Energy, and Entergy Corporation. Whether your company is a family-owned legacy celebrating a milestone anniversary in a small town, or an enterprise-level corporation, King understands what it takes to turn your story into a valuable asset for your organization.

Ross Lawhead/

Illustrator/Communications Specialist/Writer


A veteran of the publishing industry for 20+ years, Ross Lawhead brings both a compelling narrative voice and a keen eye for precision to the SJR Research team. Lawhead’s work includes both the authoring and publishing of his own written works, but a strong background in graphics, illustration, and design. What good are facts and figures if they can’t express your story? Lawhead bridges the gap between the written and visual, giving your project the professional packaging it needs to make a big impression.

Matt M. Matthews/

Historian/Military Research Specialist/Writer


Seasoned military historian, Matt M. Matthews started his career after serving over 14 years with the Army. Mr. Matthews worked for the Combat Studies Institute from July 2005 until 2013 after working for 16 years as a member of the World Class Opposing Force (OPFOR) for the Battle Command Training Program at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Mr. Matthews has coauthored numerous scholarly articles on the Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi to include “Shot All To Pieces: The Battle of Lone Jack,” “To Play a Bold Game: The Battle of Honey Springs,” and “Better Off in Hell: The Evolution of the Kansas Red Legs.” He also appeared on the History Channel as a historian for Bill Kurtis’ Investigating History.

Roy L. McCullough, PhD./

Project Manager/Researcher/Writer


Dr. Roy McCullough is a seasoned leader and innovator in the History profession with 20+ years of experience managing major research projects and providing research, writing, and analytical support to government clients. SJR Research is proud to have Dr. McCullough on our team. He has extensive experience overseeing large and complex research projects; preparing written products tailored to a variety of audiences; managing curatorial acquisitions, exhibit design, artifact accountability and preservation; conducting oral history interviews; identifying and hiring key personnel; overseeing contracting efforts; and creating and leveraging collaborative relationships with internal and external stakeholders.

Annah Mackenzie, Ph.D./

Writer and Researcher


As a writer and a communications strategist in the nonprofit and creative/cultural sectors, Dr. Annah MacKenzie specializes in using narrative to create meaning, animate civic life, and inspire social change. With years of experience in multi-platform writing and content strategy, she specializes in presenting complex research, policy, and theory to general audiences in compelling, jargon-free prose. Annah received her PhD in American Culture from the University of Michigan, where her doctoral manuscript was nominated for the ProQuest Dissertation Award and the Ralph Henry Gabriel Prize, a national award for best dissertation in the field.

Michael Mallowe/


Mike Mallowe is an award-winning writer and editor with a career including books, magazines, web content, investigative reporting, public service reporting, consulting on editorial strategies and media relations, and teaching. He was the senior editor of Philadelphia magazine, the founding editor of Main Line Today, senior editor of Business Philadelphia, and continues as a highly-regarded writer and columnist. His writing spans political parties, companies and corporations, churches and religious organizations, organized crime families, social and cultural movements and regional histories, including the Philadelphia Main Line, poor urban “white towns”, and unique ethnic enclaves.

Kate Meadows/



Kate Meadows holds an MFA in Professional Writing and has a strong background in newspaper reporting, writing and editing. Meadows specializes in connecting readers with the human elements of news and history. Meadows has published numerous articles and essays in national, regional and local publications. Her two latest essays (forthcoming in two anthologies in 2020) chronicle the lively history of her favorite hometown diner and her 115-year-old hometown newspaper, both in her hometown of Pinedale, WY. She lives for human interest stories – those memories and experiences that shape who we are and how we influence others.

Michael Morgan, J.D./

Writer and Researcher


Michael D. Morgan, J.D. began using narrative history as a method of advocating for neighborhood preservation and revitalization in the early 2000s. Morgan is the author of popular local history books, has designed and developed heritage tourism programs, serves as Curator of Cincinnati’s Brewing Heritage Trail, and teaches at the University of Cincinnati. He has also worked on and appeared in several documentary films. At SJR Research, Morgan aids both private and non-profit clients in property research, giving history the color it needs to inspire generations beyond.

Marsanne Petty/

Media & Outreach Specialist


When it comes to making the most of your corporate history, Marsanne Petty takes the lead. Turning historical facts into valuable press assets, Petty also manages publication releases by arranging interviews, coordination press releases, orchestrating event media, and more. At SJR Research, she guides corporate clients in creating the materials they need to best communicate both internally and to customers worldwide.

Erica Risberg, Ph.D./

Writer/Researcher/Oral Historian


Dr. Erica Risberg brings over thirty years of experience as a cultural heritage consultant, producer, and researcher to the SJR Research team. Her experience includes communication, anthropology, cultural analysis, development of content for educators and tourists, and coordination and management of cross‐agency interdisciplinary studies. She also serves as our in-house voice-over talent for historical media projects. Dr. Risberg earned her doctorate in cultural studies from the University of Maine and created educational and tourism content for numerous cultural heritage organizations.

Nathan Schmidt/

Writer and Researcher


Nathan Schmidt is a dedicated writer, editor, and researcher with a passion for history. He has a Master of Arts in History as well as a Bachelor of Arts in English and History (with a minor in Museum Studies). Nathan applies his research, writing, and editing skillset to a range of professional roles including Digital Marketing, Education, Newsletters, Reports, Tax Guides, Tests, and Video Games. Schmidt brings a diverse experience to the SJR Research team. His work communicates deeply to a variety of audiences while maintaining high attention to research accuracy and quality writing.

John Schuttler/

Writer and Researcher


From large corporate histories to intimate Native American communities, John Schuttler brings over 20 years of historical research and writing to the SJR Research team. Past projects have included assessing of historic properties, creating guides for natural resource management decisions, uncovering complex corporate connections, and preparing expert court testimony. In 2018, he co-authored the book, Liberated Spirits: Two Women Who Battled Over Prohibition, was published by Berkley Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Katie Sjursen, Ph.D/

Writer and Researcher


Great history isn’t just a list of facts- it’s a story of milestone, triumphs, and challenges. If you’re looking for a deeper narrative to your story, Dr. Katie Sjursen is perfect for your project. With a Ph.D. in history and decades of experience researching and teaching at the university level, Dr. Sjursen digs through the piles of information, snippets of letters, reminiscences, and legal records to piece together a good tale. Her research and writing has resulted in academic articles and book reviews, blog posts, newsletters, and magazine articles in venues such as The Atlantic and Current Biography.

Xina Marie Uhl/

Writer and Researcher


Xina Marie Uhl has authored more than 15 books, including biographies and books on history and technology. The setting of her first novel, NECROPOLIS, was heavily influenced by her interest in ancient history. She holds both a BA and an MA in history. In addition to fiction writing, she teaches university-level history courses and writes educational materials. At SJR Researcher, Uhl combines both a passion for research and compelling narrative to help clients retell their history for generations to come.

Mark Walston/

Writer and Researcher


Mark Walston is an award-winning writer and historian, author of more than a dozen books and over 300 articles and essays exploring a broad range of American social, cultural and historical topics. Formerly he served as a historian for the United States Department of the Treasury. Walston’s insight into research methodology and his narrative voice are an invaluable addition to the SJR Research team.

Sarah Weissman/



Sarah is a journalist, writer, researcher and media and communications professional with decades of experience in news and storytelling across subject matter. She began her career in visual journalism at The New York Times, where she was a member of several Pulitzer Prize winning teams, and has been an editor at Time Inc., Conde Nast Publications and several other publications. She ghostwrites books, thought leadership content and writes a weekly news column that aims to contextualize today’s domestic and international news events.

Lisa Wolfington/



Lisa Wolfington is a veteran healthcare writer, communicator and marketer who has won numerous local and national awards for her work in patient access to care. Wolfington is considered a subject matter expert, especially in hospitals, health systems, health plans and medical devices locally and nationally. Wolfington began her career as a journalist in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Delaware before working on Capitol Hill for ABC News and CNN. She is a member of the National Press Club, Women Business Leaders in Healthcare, and the America College of Healthcare Executives.

Dave Kenney/

Writer and Researcher


Dave Kenney is a Minnesota-based freelancer specializing in the research and writing of corporate, institutional, and family histories. He’s worked with a wide array of clients including companies, non-profits, educational institutions, communities of faith, families, and high-net-worth individuals. He has also written a collection of general interest histories on subjects ranging from World War II to the movie industry. He is a two-time winner of the Minnesota Book Award.