The Hudson River Valley Institute

Meet the Intern: Reagan Walker

Reagan_WalkerHello! I am Reagan Walker and I will be working with the HRVI this semester. I am a senior at Marist College studying Adolescent Education and History. I hope to incorporate both of my fields of study into my time here at HRVI to enhance the experience of both myself, and hopefully any of my readers. Originally, I am from Fairfield, CT, an area with a great deal of history itself. Between colonization, battles against the British, and witch-hunts, Fairfield is the place where I realized my passion for history, and the Hudson River Valley is where I have come to pursue it. Growing up I have always been a “nerd” for history. Even though I have always known that teaching was the profession for me, history was always in the background, and I knew it was something I had to pursue further in life. Marist and HRVI give me the opportunity to do just that. My studies have completely changed the way I think about our human race, both past and present, both globally and locally.

My love of the subject has taken me to some truly amazing places; over the course of the past 3 years, I have taken several trips to Europe in an attempt to expand my “cultural pallet”. I have studied Renaissance artwork in Italy, metropolitan architecture in France, and extraordinary castles in Austria. My long-term goal is to explore regions of the globe other than the “Western World”, and really to push myself out of my comfort zone. This January I will be taking a service trip to Nicaragua with my family to help with the design and construction of homes in an impoverished village. Someday I hope to chase all of my favorite foods around the globe to experience them in their purest form. These tasks include trying tacos in Mexico, pastel in Brazil, and sushi in Japan. It may seem like a daunting task, but I assure you I am up to the challenge. I ultimately hope to take my skills in education abroad; teaching in a foreign country is my perfect idea of how to pursue my work in the classroom, while immersing myself in a different culture and learning about new parts of our globe.

Since my first visit to Marist, the Hudson Valley has enchanted me, as it has with so many others. Aside from the both iconic and scenic river, the spirit of this location is one that captivates every visitor. I have a professor here at Marist who said, “The Hudson Valley is a revolutionary place”, and I could not agree more. The history of this area is one so rich and deep, it is far too tempting not to delve into, as it is not surprising to me that some of history’s greatest figures have chosen to settle in this location. I plan to further pursue many of these topics here at HRVI, and look forward to deepening and expanding my knowledge through my “nerdy” studies, (of which I could not take more pride in) and sharing them with the rest of my community.


Meet the Intern: Elijah Bender

elijahpictureMy name is Elijah Bender and I am currently a senior at Marist College. This is my first time interning at the Hudson River Valley Institute and I am excited to apply my interest in this region and its past toward the Hudson River Valley Institute’s initiative. I was born and raised in Manhattan and eventually moved to Rhinebeck, NY where I currently live. I developed my love for history in my early years through the stories told by my father and grandfather. Together, we would go antiquing and sightseeing and they would point out notable landmarks, share tales of individuals, and narratives of various historical events.

Growing up in Greenwich Village in Manhattan provided me with a wealth of historical
diversity. In deciding my major, history was a no-brainer and seems to be a perfect fit. I am deeply interested in the Hudson River Valley and constantly seek out sites and stories concerning local history. Marist has been a great experience and I have even learned that I am interested in other areas of history outside of my own; for instance, African studies which I find fascinating. I was honored to be inducted into the Phi Alpha Theta history honors society for my academic achievements and am also a member of the Marist College History Club and the Prelaw Club on campus. Law school is in my future and I am currently studying to take the LSAT and begin the application process. I strongly believe that my degree in history has best prepared me for this next course of education and complements the study of law nicely.

In my free time, I own and operate Foster’s Coach House Tavern in Rhinebeck with my
father. We bought the restaurant in December of 2016 and have worked for the past six months to revive and enhance this Hudson Valley landmark. It has been a wonderful experience to continue the tradition of such a notable establishment and has provided me with a great deal of experience. Outside of academics, I enjoy activities like fishing, shooting, cross country skiing, antiquing, hobby carpentry, historic preservation, cooking, and other similar activities. I find time to volunteer at the Rhinebeck Fire Department where I drive the ambulance and serve as the recording secretary. I am also working on restoring a 1944 Dodge Powerwagon that was an army ambulance in WWII. It’s in rough shape but will hopefully be a showpiece soon enough. I always like a good movie and am fond of the classics. I always gravitate toward watching sports, when time permits, particularly Baseball, Football, and Hockey. I consider it a great honor to be
associated with the Hudson River Valley Institute and am confident the relationship will be mutually beneficial.

Meet the Intern: Michelle Linker


My name is Michelle Linker and I am senior at Marist College. I was born and raised on Long Island, NY until the age of eight, when my family moved to the Poconos in Pennsylvania. Before attending Marist, I graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Education with a Social Studies concentration from Dutchess Community College. When I arrived as a transfer student to Marist in fall 2016, I decided to pursue history alone as my major because of my passion for the subject and my love of writing. Outside of school, I do volunteer work at the Mid Hudson Regional Hospital, spending time with and helping patients.

My two favorite hobbies are music and travelling. Before graduating high school, I almost considered becoming a music major. Music has always been central to my identity. I played french horn in high school and I taught myself piano and guitar and have been playing them since middle school. Michael Jackson in particular is a very important figure in my life who has inspired me both through his music and his charity to others. I am also very fond of travelling and learning about different cultures, especially trying different types of cuisine. I especially enjoy taking road trips and in the future, I hope to do more international travelling. This year, from April-July, I studied abroad in Japan. I was so lucky to have this opportunity to use my Japanese skills and study the language even more deeply. It was the most life-changing and amazing experience I have ever had, and my outlook on the world broadened immensely. I’m proud to say that I now have family not only in Japan, but from all over the globe.

My interests in travel and being abroad has led me to have an interest in working overseas one day. Specifically, I would be interested in going back to Japan one day since I have studied and speak the language and I really enjoyed living there. I want to use and mold the experiences I gain from my time at Marist to help realize my dreams and hopefully gain employment in a position with a global non-for-profit organization or embassy work. With the HRVI, I am very excited to learn more about the local history in the Hudson Valley and in New York state, especially with the region being so rich with culture and famous landmarks such as FDR’s presidential library and the Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park as a few examples. I am looking forward to this internship at HRVI as an opportunity to expand my horizons and to gain useful skills for the workplace in the nearing future.


3rd Annual American Military History Course Goes Off with a Bang!

On July 22, the American Military History pre-college course at Marist College concluded. Students and staff both had an exciting two weeks full of field trips, games, lectures, and most excitingly, an overnight encampment at Marist’s own Payne Mansion. Although it was a packed two weeks, everyone was sad to see it end.


Marist’s pre-college courses are designed for high school students to experience the excitement of college life and become more independent as they learn both academically challenging material and what it will be like to live on a college campus away from home. Students are fully immersed in a three-credit college level course taught by some of Marist’s outstanding faculty. The American Military History course just completed its third year as part of the program. The course aims to immerse students in military history with active learning from the War for Independence to Afghanistan. Students are given the opportunity to examine the history of the evolution of American warfare from the perspective of the pivotal role the historic Hudson River Valley played. The course is designed so that by the end of the course students will be able to analyze and understand all aspects of war in America.


My involvement in the course started long before the students even arrived on campus. As a Psychology and Special Education major, I was more than happy to help; It’s great practice for my future! There was a lot of organizing to do to ensure that things ran smoothly. The class was split into five separate groups each with their own team name and leader. My job in all of this was primarily to make sure that when they students arrived, each team would have all the materials they needed to be successful. This required a lot of copying, stapling, and sticky notes, but in the end, each team had everything they needed in a folder with their names on it. As the course began, I formed personal connections with the students through talking to them at any chance I got. During the first week, I ate lunch with them in the dining hall between classes. Through talking to them one-on-one, I learned what their interests were, why they took the course, and what they hoped to get out of it. Sharing this information with the professors ensured that the course was a unique experience for the students. During the first week, students visited sites such as Philipsburg Manor, Fort Montgomery, and took a full-day trip to West Point where they were given a tour by West Point Tours. Throughout the second week, students traveled to the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, Springwood, the home of FDR, and the accompanying museum, Val-Kill, and finally the encampment at the Payne Mansion.


The cumulation of the course for both staff and students was an overnight trip to the Marist’s historic Col. Oliver Hazard Payne Estate in Esopus, home to the Raymond A. Rich Institute for Leadership Development. In partnership with the Living History Education Foundation, Marist professors took the class of high schoolers on a trip back through history to experience what it was like for a Civil War soldier in the Hudson River Valley. Students dressed up in Civil War era military uniforms, learned how to pitch their own old-fashioned tents using canvas and wooden frames, cooked over a campfire, and shot off a real cannon. It was a unique experience and one that I wish I had in my history course. Being immersed in history was effective in teaching the students the parts of history you can’t get from reading a textbook; Were the soldiers hot during the summertime? How heavy were the coats they wore? What types of food did they eat? Where did they sleep? Exactly how loud is a cannon? With the help of our friends from the Living History Education Foundation, the students found the answers to all these questions and more.


Overall, the course certainly met its objectives this year. We couldn’t have asked for a nicer week for field trips and outdoor learning activities. Students walked away knowing more about the history of war in America and especially about the role the Hudson River Valley played.

-Gabi Perpignand, Frank T. Bumpus Intern


Teaching the Hudson Valley: Using History to Teach the Future

Teaching the Hudson Valley (THV), began in 2003 with a mission to “help educators explore and share the region’s natural, historic, and cultural treasures with children and youth while fostering collaboration between schools and informal learning places.” As a first time attendee, I can confidently confirm that they are living up to their goal.


On the morning of July 25, a variety of educators and learners alike gathered in the Henry A. Wallace Visitor Center at the beautiful FDR Presidential Library and Museum. The theme of this year’s institute was “Building Community with Place-Based Learning.” Throughout the conference, I came to truly understand the definition of the term “place-based learning.” Some distinct characteristics of place-based learning are that it is grounded in the specific attributes of the area you are studying. In our case, it was the Hudson River Valley. It is very hands-on and is rooted in a drive to learn more about the region and it’s communities. Through place-based learning, students are able to see ways in which they can personally impact a place. These types of experiences are invaluable to students because as they grow to become adult members of their communities, they will truly understand how to best contribute to their region.


The conference started off with a keynote speaker (Gina Dellatte) after which participants divided into several different workshops. Topics discussed ranged from Eleanor Roosevelt to Historic Sites to Climate Change and everything in between. The vast list of workshops offered allowed educators to select options that best aligned with their specialties or specific interests.


Gina Dellatte’s keynote address was, to say the very least, inspiring. As an ELA teacher in the Newburgh Enlarged City School District for 13 years, she has met her fair share of teenagers. Her talk was titled “Mountain or River? Building Classroom Communities.” She began her keynote by having all attendees participate in an activity where we were asked to define ourselves using only binary choices; Are you the hammer or the nail, the wind of the leaf, the mountain or the river? It was harder than you’d think and that was the point Dellatte was trying to make. Teenage students already have so much on their plate and everything seems like the end of the world. Imagine growing up and on top of all the other confusing things you’re experiencing, you are struggling to fit yourself into one of the boxes we call “gender.” Dellatte spoke about her personal experiences with growing up and the challenges she faced while working out who she truly is. Her keynote speech addressed the importance of making all students feel comfortable in being themselves and provided ways educators can do so. She ran through the basic concepts using a great diagram and spoke about why it is necessary to use “person-centered language” as opposed to “person-first language.” The overarching theme I took away from the keynote was something Dellatte said. She said “Just being an accepting presence for students can sometimes make the entire difference.”


The first workshop I attended was “Hands (and Feet) on Learning: The NY Giant Traveling Map” led by Nordica Holochuck of New York Sea Grant and Susan Hoskins from the Institute for Resource Information Sciences at Cornell University. The first thing I noticed upon entering the room was the giant, GIANT, map of New York State laid out on the floor. It was hard to miss; The thing took up three quarters of the floor! The map was created by National Geographic with the purpose of “introducing geography and map reading skills to students, grades K-8” (Learn more here: They began their session by asking participants to remove their shoes and walk around on the map. We were provided little orange cones with the instruction to “place them anywhere that means something to you.” People placed their cones all over NY state in places ranging from their hometown, to the place they were born, to places they would like to go, or places that just had funny names. We went around the room introducing ourselves and explaining why we placed our cones where we did.( I placed mine on the Long Island Sound because I live near the beach and learned to swim in the Sound!) After acquainting ourselves with both the map and each other, we participated in several different activities geared towards elementary aged children. As a future elementary educator, I was surprised to learn how versatile the map was. Though the games and activities we were doing would be perfect for students in 3rd or 4th grade, I could think of a million other activities for middle school, high school, and even college aged students! We completed a land features scavenger hunt, guessed where specific landmarks were, learned about why grids are helpful on a map, and played “Navigator and Explorer,” A game in which one person, the navigator, uses the cardinal directions to steer their explorer to the correct place on the map. Each participant left the session with an information packet containing details regarding renting the map among other things. The session emphasized the importance of spatial learning and how learning geography can help students to have a better sense of place.


After having a quick snack, I attended my second workshop which was led by Adam Sanchez, a social studies teacher at Harvest Collegiate High school and editorial board member, Rethinking Schools. The workshop was titled “Teaching a People’s History of the New Deal.” He began the session by explaining that students are primarily taught history through the lens of the presidents or leaders at the time. We hardly ever get to hear the viewpoints of those who were just like we are, the people or the general public. Sanchez’s lesson on the New Deal doesn’t focus solely on FDR and his involvement in it. Instead, it takes a look at the types of people the New Deal was made for. Sanchez utilizes a role playing activity to help students to understand what the New Deal really is. Participants in this workshop were split into equal groups and assigned a specific type of person in society to play. My group was given Corporate Executives. After reading a short bio about our character, we were asked to step into their mindset and answer questions regarding the different components of the New Deal. After completing the questions for our character, each group sent a representative to other groups in an attempt to form alliances thus strengthening their demands. After all alliances had been formed, each group crafted a short speech to FDR outlining their demands for the New Deal and a different representative from each group read it out loud to the room. Sanchez, in the role of Franklin Roosevelt himself, then explained why each of the alliances would or would not have worked in the time of the New Deal and went into detail about how each of the sections really worked out in the end. Participants were then provided with a copy of the actual Deal and asked to analyze who they think really won the New Deal.


My final workshop of the day was titled “Bringing the New Deal to a New Generation.” After learning all about the New Deal from the people’s perspective with Sanchez, I was interested in learning about it from FDR’s perspective. The session was led by Jeff Urbin, Education Specialist at the FDR Presidential Library and Museum. He provided the group with a brief introduction to the Library and Museum and touched upon how teachers can get their students involved in FDR’s history by visiting the site. Urbin spoke about the newest exhibit, “Images of Internment: The Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II” (Learn about the current exhibit here: After telling us how to navigate the museum, we were let loose to explore on our own. Though I have visited the FDR Presidential Library and Museum before, walking through it this time proved to be a different experience entirely. I now had a background of knowledge about the artifacts and information I saw before me. The displays only solidified my new understanding of the New Deal and was a great was to follow up Sanchez’s workshop.


On Wednesday, I attended a field trip to Newburgh led by Ginny McCurdy, an ELA teacher at the Newburgh Free Academy. The day was packed with interesting things to do and learn about in the city. We began the day at the ferry terminal and read aloud a poem, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry by Walt Whitman, that set the tone for the entire day. We rode the ferry out onto the Hudson and saw Newburgh in a whole different light. It looks strangely beautiful with the light from the water glinting off of all the buildings! After docking, we walked to the Newburgh Brewing Company where we learned about the historical significance of the building and how the brewing company is connected with farms and places all around the Hudson River Valley. From there we visited Washington’s Headquarters where we were given an extremely informative tour of the house and museum. After splitting up for lunch, we gathered once again at Safe Harbors and the Ritz Theatre where McCurdy explained how she came to develop this field trip. She explained how helping students to look at the historical significance of their town can open their eyes to all the different ways they can contribute to their very own community. Especially in a community like Newburgh, where many students feel as if they are stuck in a rut, the importance of exposing them to new and interesting things close to home can help inspire hope for the future. After weeks of studying history, art, and literature relating to their town, students spend a day exploring their town through a historical lens and gain a new appreciation for where they live. The last thing we did was tour the Crawford House at which we learned about the fashion and style of a wealthy family in the early 19th century. The day provided me with the foundation to potentially build a similar experience for my future students in their own town and has inspired me to learn more about where I live.


On Thursday, the final day, I attended two workshops. The first was “Safe Schools for All: Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students” led by GLSEN Hudson Valley and the second was “Opening More Closets at Val-Kill: Finding American History” led by Frank Futral, curator at the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt National Historic Sites.


The first workshop, held by Rob Conlon and Peter Mostachetti from GLSEN Hudson Valley, was taught the best practices for providing a safe learning environment for every student, especially those who do not fall into traditionally accepted norms about appearance and expression of self. The workshop was geared towards opening our minds and striving to understand the plights of those who don’t follow traditional gender norms. We began the session by going around the room and writing the first thing that comes to mind when you read words such as “gay, bisexual, transgender, male, female, straight” etc. we were told there were no wrong answers as the point of the activity was to understand our own lens before working to expand it. The entire session was powerful but the part that stuck with me the most was when a high school student, Lee, spoke to us about his experience as a trans student in the Hudson River Valley. He talked about the steps he took to feel comfortable in his own skin and how he helped educators in his school to understand the right moves to take. Lee explained that the best thing a teacher can do for any transgender or gender nonconforming student is to “not make things awkward.” No student wants to confront the teacher in the first place and making it as painless as possible is an enormous step in helping them to feel safe and welcome in your classroom. A big theme of the workshop was that a safe and welcoming environment is the most conducive environment for students to learn and that’s what all teachers need to strive for so we can educate our students to the best of their abilities.


My last workshop was “Opening Closets at Val-Kill: Finding American History” led by Frank Futral. I found that this was the perfect follow up to the safe schools workshop I had just attended as Futral’s session discussed the mystery surrounding Eleanor Roosevelt’s sexual orientation. He spoke about the importance of understanding ER’s relationships with people and how through learning about her connections with others we can uncover why she did the things she did. The session touched on the LGBTQ history at Val-Kill and how by understanding things about the role of females during ER’s time, the couples that built and maintained Val-Kill, and Er’s work to build an inclusive society, we come to know more about ER as a person. A topic that emerged from discussions in the workshop was the fact that some people travel to historic places in search of LGBTQ links. The big question is are we doing those people a disservice by not calling Eleanor Roosevelt a “lesbian?” Futral responded to this with a poignant quote that has stuck with me for several days now: “If Eleanor didn’t call herself a lesbian how can we?” The sentiment behind this statement carries on into many other walks of life, especially education. Educators must remember that students are who they are and it is not up to us to try to fit them into a neat little box.


The THV institute came to a close late Thursday afternoon with a brief address by our very own Col. Jim Johnson followed by a keynote by Vinnie Bagwell, a sculptor out of Yonkers, and Ty Gray-El, a phenomenal storyteller. Bagwell is currently working on a project called the Enslaved Africans Rain Garden. The project’s aim is to shed light on the lives of the enslaved Africans who lived at Philipse Manor. The garden pulls talents from all over the art community. Ty-Gray EL is one such example. As a storyteller he was able to humanize Bagwell’s sculptures. His stories are what bring these characters to life and pull on people’s ability to sympathize. (More information about Gray-EL and his stories can be found here:


Overall, my first experience at Teaching the Hudson Valley is something I’ll never forget. The lessons I learned through the institute are things I will carry with me throughout the rest of my time as a student and into my years as a teacher. I was grateful to have had the opportunity to attend THV and make connections with educators in the area and to learn information about a place I knew little about.

-Gabi Perpignand, Frank T. Bumpus Intern

The Henry Knox Cannon Trail: Monuments and Dedication

Hudson River Valley Institute’s Advisory Board member, Ms. Denise Doring VanBuren, helped to dedicate the latest monument at the start point of the Henry Knox Cannon Trail (HKCT) at Crown Point State Historic Site on 13 May 2017.

The fifty-six monuments (thirty in New York) erected by New York and Massachusetts in 1927 commemorate an epic journey of about fifty-six days by Colonel Knox and his teamsters from Fort Ticonderoga, New York, to Boston, Massachusetts.  The NYS Daughters of the American Revolution generously helped fund the project. Crown Point was the point of origin for twenty-nine cannons hauled from Fort Ticonderoga to Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1775-1776.

Since 1999 the Hudson River Valley National Heritage (HRVNHA) and the Hudson River Valley Institute (HRVI) at Marist College have been interpreting the Henry Knox Cannon Trail (HKCT) from Crown Point, New York, to Boston, Massachusetts, as a route of interest for heritage tourists.

cannon history plaque dedication PHOTOS_Page_2Colonel Henry Knox arrived at Fort Ticonderoga on the evening of December 5, 1775, accompanied by his nineteen-year-old brother William and a servant, Miller. Early the next day, assisted by the garrison of Fort Ticonderoga, he began to move the fifty-nine cannons and mortars.  By January 4, 1776, the guns had begun to arrive in Albany.  By January 24, Knox and his caravan reached Cambridge, Massachusetts.  In the second week of March 1776, Washington stood in position to bombard the British in Boston from Dorchester Heights, using the array of heavy guns General Knox had laboriously dragged from Lake Champlain. General William Howe recognized that only the evacuation of his army could save it, and beginning on March 17th the victorious American army reclaimed its city.
cannon history plaque dedication PHOTOS_Page_1

A Day at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside


The “Little Mediterranean”

It was far from sunny when I made the hour-and-twenty-minute drive from Marist to Tarrytown on March 28 to visit Sunnyside, the home of Washington Irving.  The day was gloomy but not too cold, and the snowy drive was still very pretty.  My first stop was the Historic Hudson Valley Library in Pocantico Hills.  I spent a couple of hours in the huge, quiet reading room adorned with paintings, including the George W. Waters painting of Rip Van Winkle that I had come across in my research.  Catalina Hannan, the librarian, took me through the history of Sunnyside and of Historic Hudson Valley.  Once I had compiled enough research, it was off to the house itself.


After parking by the museum shop (which used to be Irving’s stables), Catalina led me and two HRVI staff members down the wooded path through the former property of the author of “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”  She explained Historic Hudson Valley’s mission to emphasize Irving’s life and achievements beyond his two seminal works.  She stressed the importance of Irving’s works to the literary culture of the young United States, as well as the fact that Irving is considered the first American to make a living through writing.  She reiterated a theme from the many sources I’d seen emphasizing the different “sides” or “personalities” of Irving: the “Spanish” Irving, whose time as American Minister to Spain and writings on Christopher Columbus have earned him an enthusiastic Spanish fan base; the “Western” Irving, who spent some time writing in the Western frontier before purchasing Sunnyside; and Irving as a Gothic writer, whose creepier, more supernatural stories mixed Gothic influences with dark humor and satire.

Passing Irving’s small man-made lake, nicknamed the “Little Mediterranean” by Irving and his family, we made our way to the cove, where we could finally see Sunnyside.  Scottish ivy, trimmed once every two years, covers the side of the house.  Catalina promised that if we were to come later in spring or summer, we would see the cottage adorned with honeysuckle and trumpet vine blooms.  We could also see the train tracks that Irving so despised when they were built in 1847.  In a letter he wrote to Gouvernor Kemble in 1850, he described being awoken at night by the “horrific sounds” and “constant calamity” of the train.  In fact, in 1854, when his neighbors petitioned to have the closest train station renamed “Irvington,” Irving alone did not sign.


We finally made our way into the house itself.  The ceilings are low, the interior very cozy, just the way Irving liked it.  We saw Irving’s study, the desk decorated with two seafaring knives (there used to be three, but one was stolen just a few years ago!).  We saw the parlor, where Irving would look out at the view of the river.  Upstairs, we saw the rather creepy “Old Mammy’s Asylum,” a storage room with closets and a sewing area.  Irving, a lifelong bachelor and devoted sibling, invited many family members to live with him, including his aging brothers and their children.  Due to the large number of people who lived there, the house contains many bedrooms.  Irving himself switched bedrooms many times while living at Sunnyside (in one instance to distance himself from the sounds of the infernal train).  His original bedroom was my favorite; its pretty alcove decorated by a curtain was inspired by a room Irving had stayed in in France.

We passed the apple orchards, which Irving claimed were wandered by the benevolent ghost of the cottage’s original owner, as well as Daffodil Hill, which, Catalina assured us, would be in full bloom in mid-April.  She also described other Historic Hudson Valley programs in the area, many of which take place at or near Sunnyside.  Details can be found at

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