Archive for the ‘Why Phi?’ Category

Nu Sigma Phi celebrates 75th anniversary

Kean University’s Nu Sigma Phi fraternity celebrated its 75th anniversary on Oct. 25 with a gala event that drew approximately 100 alumni and current student members to the atrium of the university’s STEM building in Union Township.

The event included a silent auction and presentations by the fraternity’s alumni leaders, including a historical retrospective of Nu Sigma Phi’s founding and subsequent three-quarters of a century of “Strength, Nobility, and Progress Through the Ages” (the fraternity’s tagline). Current students conducted a pinning ceremony for this fall’s inductees during the program.

“The purpose of this event was to celebrate our 75-year legacy on campus, and to reconnect our brothers with their alma mater,” said Michael Delicio ’82, the event’s primary organizer. “I would hope that attendees walked away knowing that brotherhood is timeless, and that there is much that they can contribute to both the current fraternity and Kean University.”

The program was punctuated several times by energetic chants and cheers from the audience, particularly its younger members, who at one point started a rousing repetition of one of Nu Sigma Phi’s signature catchphrases—“Who’s Got Your Back?”

This particular chant directly refers to one of Nu Sigma Phi’s central precepts: that its brothers are committed to actively supporting each other in all endeavors, and particularly in situations where a brother may be in need of either financial or emotional support. The pledge that new members take upon admission to Nu Sigma Phi includes the stated obligation to “come to the aid of brothers in need.”

“Brotherhood is not a given right,” said Dan DeWeever ’84, chairman of the fraternity’s alumni association. “It’s a two-way street. The active support of our members, by our members, is our only guarantee of success.”

The philosophy of mutual support derives directly from the circumstances of the fraternity’s founding at then-New Jersey State Teachers College at Newark. (The college would not take the name “Kean” until 1973; starting in 1959, it was known as Newark State College.)

In 1939, a group of 15 students, frustrated by their inability to pledge existing college fraternities due to reasons that included religion, ethnicity, and/or choice of academic focus, decided that they would create a new fraternity founded on principles of democracy, integrity, mutual respect, and inclusion. They successfully petitioned the college administration, and Nu Sigma Phi was born as one of the first nonsectarian fraternities to be granted a charter in the state of New Jersey. Its first advisor was Professor of History and Chair of the Department of Social Sciences John C. Hutchinson Jr., who would serve in that capacity for the next 25 years and became the namesake of Kean’s Hutchinson Hall.

“We were founded by a small group of students who experienced discrimination firsthand,” said Delicio. “They overcame adversity to create an organization dedicated to diversity, inclusion, service to others, and most importantly the true spirit of brotherhood. Our story and philosophy are as relevant today as they were in 1939, which is why brothers like Henry Niemira keep coming back.”

Delicio was referring to Henry Niemira ’41 one of two of the original 15 founders who, remarkably, are still alive. Niemira was proudly present at the gala, holding court at his table near the front of the room, the multicolored braid around his shoulders signifying his position of high honor within the fraternity.

The 75th anniversary gala was especially meaningful for alumni who lived through some of the fraternity’s more difficult times. Nu Sigma Phi ran into problems with the university during the mid-1990s and ceased to be an active organization on campus. But by 2008, a core group of dedicated alumni had managed to bring the fraternity back from the brink.

“As our motto is ‘Progress Through the Ages,’ it was important that our brothers, especially those who have been less than engaged over the years, understand and be proud of the fact that our organization and the university have accomplished much and continue to grow,” said Delicio. “Many of our older brothers were not aware of the fact that we stopped being an active organization about 20 years ago, or of the remarkable story of our subsequent renaissance.”

That renaissance includes the establishment of the Nu Sigma Phi Annual Scholarship at Kean, which provides financial assistance to academically talented Kean students and to brothers of Nu Sigma Phi.

Why Phi? – Mike Lunga / Alpha Omnicron 1967

Now being one of the “Old Men”, and considering that I was at Kean from 1965 to 1969, some of the memories have faded just a bit, but others are as fresh as yesterday. Yes I am SO, SO old that John Hutchinson was one of my professors and Dorothy Hennings and her husband were both teachers and friends, too. Most of the building that are on campus now were just fields or muddy parking lots in my days.

All fraternities and sororities have periods of growth and periods of relative stagnation. In my years at Kean (then Newark State College – it did not assume the Kean name until the month of my graduation in 1969) Nu Sigma Phi was in a stage of re-growth, renewal, and expansion. Yes there had been some lean years in the period about 4 or 5 years before I came on board, but due to a few staunch friends who were the true definition of Leadership and “Brotherhood”, Carl Fuhri and Charlie Demskis, the frat was doing just fine when I came on board in 1967. A “brotherhood award” was instituted in their name the year I graduated and I am very proud to have been the first recipient of that award, although there were many other men in that year who were certainly as deserving as I was.

Phi at that time was one of the three larger fraternities on campus, but they were very different. Maybe it was because of their heritage, being the fraternity born out of diversity, but they did not seem to be able to be fit into a mold. Sure there was the “intellectual” fraternity, and the “jock/stud” fraternity (or at least they thought they were), and others who seemed to be “cookie cutter” frats with all the same type of guys in them (nerds, pretenders, etc), but Phi was different. We had leaders, jocks, intellectuals, average guys, and guys from all different backgrounds and races. The only common denominator was that they were good people (very good people) who like to have fun and learned what true brotherhood meant.

Phi was the fraternity that got things done on campus, usually quietly and without arrogance. They always had a key say in both Student Government add the Greek Government (then the Inter Fraternity Sorority Counsel). I have remained friends with some of these men for well over 40 years now. I was best man to at least 4 of them at their weddings, (even substantially arranged one wedding for a brother who was overseas when he got engaged), and unfortunately, have been to too many of their funerals for those who passed on much too soon. One of these men who unfortunately passed on much too soon was Peter D. Wikander. Peter was the pledge master for two years and took his job very seriously. I can say that he was one of the first pledge masters who took the approach that pledging should be more than a harassing rite of passage, but rather an educational experience when new brothers really got to know one another and the older brothers, as well getting to know the history of the fraternity. The meaning of brotherhood, mutual friendship and assistance was driven home.

Friendships made then and strengthened thereafter have stood the test of time. 1965 to 1969 were very tumultuous times. Newark and Plainfield riots, Vietnam War, first major power blackout on the east coast (the lights went out while I was coming back from an English Department field trip to McCarter Theater), sit ins and strikes regarding the Vietnam War (Kent State shootings) and much more. Certainly it was a time when fraternity and brotherhood were needed. I vividly remember the night that they held the first lottery draft. The order in which you would be drafted into the military was determined by a televised lottery involving your birthday. At times like those, the true meaning of brotherhood really made a difference.

One of the first birthdays picked was that of a great brother who in his despair, and with the aid of a blood alcohol level a bit above the legal limit, decided to climb to the very top of one of the tall oak trees by the powerhouse and it took hours to get him down! Vernon Javes and ‘Clancy” will certainly remember that night. We lost some good brothers in Vietam but it was friendship and brotherhood that got others through. Rereading what I have written so far it sounds like it was all serious and no fun. NOT THE CASE AT ALL! Ski trips to Chittendon, Vermont. – (it is a wonder that they can find that town till today considering that we took every sign within at least 20 miles) and I still remember the looks of amazement when the locals awoke to see a confederate flag draped over and frozen in place on the stature of the town father in the town square! Carl Fuhri’s 3 (or maybe it was 4) bachelor parties, with people tiring to swim across the floor of a certain bar in Elizabeth on the beer that was on the floor!

The party at Vernon Javes house near the Delaware River (Frenchtown) when we had to push my Triumph Herald up all the hills on the way back because the valves were fried and engine power was at a minimum! Gathering at the Donut Truck parked on Morris Ave just east of North Avenue at 2 am for those so greasy but so, so good donuts. Greek sing- yes we did well one year, remembered the words and sang somewhat it tune! Somewhere I think I may still have the record (yes – vinyl record) that was made from the performance.

The Hell Night (that really wasn’t hell) when we buried a sealed container with a lot of the history of Phi written out in the field near the corner of Morris Avenue and North Avenue, only to find out months later (when they were a lot of divergent opinions, no doubt due to alcohol and exhaustion, about the exact location where it was buried) that the area was to be paved and made into a parking lot. Somewhere under that lot to this day is a box with a lot of Phi history in it. Some archeologist in the future will make a great find! Names like Charlie Demskis, Carl Fuhri, Bill Burke, Bill Russell, Pete Wikander and many, many others bring back many great memories. I apologize in advance for those good friends whose names I have left out. (Although some might be relieved I have not recounted ALL of the memories and stories of Phi!)

Even after graduation I was very much involved with Kean. I was President of the Kean Alumni Association for 8 years in the late 80’s -90s and was the attorney for the Kean University Student Organization for over 30 years up until it was “taken over” by the current President of the College in 2007, essentially because he was embarrassed by the fact that they had so much money in their reserve budget. Along with that there have been many pleasurable reunions of Nu Sigma Phi over the years also. Leadership and contribution to the college/university have always been a Phi tradition. Phi has been a part of my life, and a very good part of my life, for 40 years. GOD, I AM OLD! But still functioning! And I value very greatly the friendships and great times that Phi has given to me.

Mike Lunga
Alpha Omnicron 1967

Why Phi? – Andrew Cleary / Alpha Nu 1989

I took the year off after High School to make enough cash to pay for some of my education, so when I enrolled at Kean College (as it was known by back in the day) in the fall of ‘88, I was placed in Bartlett Hall instead of the freshmen dorms, missing that experience of bonding w/ my own aged peers. Midway thru that year it also sank in that I was not maximizing my college experience when, once a week, I would approach the entrance to Rodgers and I would hear and watch this rip-roaring time literally flowing out of every window and doorway of this particular first floor dorm room. Wow! ‘Who are these guys in blue?’ ‘Oh, That’s a Frat!?’ Instant jealousy and envy set in. But I was dead-set against joining a frat at the time.

My second year rolls around and I had the same dorm room, but I had a new roommate, Rob Hinkson. Those first couple of weeks, Rob’s friend, Tim Wall, would come by to hang and drink some brews, and he would always wear that same frickin blue frat shirt I saw from the year before. I grilled Tim w/ a million questions. I liked what he had to say, yet I was still skeptical. Rob was already mandated to pledge (the Manalapan connection), and I reluctantly tagged along for his first meeting with Tim’s fraternity brothers.

We sat in a meeting room for about a half hour and nobody showed up. I was ready to bail the scene. Then a couple of guys showed up, Dean Smith and Beast. They did their best to keep us there, but another half hour goes by and I’m again ready to bail. I go to the door to leave and I see this ocean of blue about a hundred yards away approaching the meeting room, led by Russ O’Neill. I was shocked and amazed that these party animals were so organized, and they displayed a quiet confidence about them, a tight-knit camaraderie, etc… and the opportunity these guys were presenting me to party like a rock star (and of course be a part of something bigger) was very appealing.

The day before my pledge class was to kick off our rush/pledge week(s), I attended the Rutgers Homecoming game. It was a cold and rainy weekend. Couple that with Phi’s pledging rituals…(confidential info)…that following Monday morning, I raced back from the football field to the cafeteria, got the breakfast for my big bro’, John “Psyco” Swykowski, and proceeded to spend the next two weeks at the Galloping Hill Hospital w/ Pneumonia. These guys didn’t quit on me. I was afforded my own weekend of “hell”…and the rest is phistory.

You are going to hear this from just about every brother that shares their phistory, but I met some of my life-long best friends by joining Nu Sigma Phi. The word Brotherhood can’t even begin to sum up what these friends mean to me. That alone is irreplaceable in this game of life and exemplifies all the values one seeks when maturing from our teens to our adulthoodness. A quick snippet of just some of my Phi experiences: Spending over two months of life running the Phi Bookstore. We helped our fellow Kean students save tens of thousands of dollars. Without a doubt, the best service any Greek Org. has offered Kean since it’s inception. The campus carnivals: Our hotdog stand, the gaming booth (Mike Connel displaying his Keansburg wares), the year we made our own Hi-Striker, and Omega’s pie-throwing cut-out. The Beefsteak Charlie runs to the city (and not leaving until everyone made at least one trip to the bathroom to empty their stomach). The late-night hockey games on the basketball courts, the Queensryche concert, the Phi 50th Anniversary, the hell weekends.

From the hood to the woods! The roadtrips, the video recorded Pittsburg trip w/ Rez and Rectangle, winning the Greek Olympics. J.T. and the band performing Phi Generation, the dropping of the baton, back to back years, waterpolo, basketball, ultimate Frisbee…we ruled! The off campus “frat” house, The Halloween parties, (All the parties), All the mixers, A shout out to our “sister” sorority Omega Sigma Psi, Phi holding down the highest GPA average for a Greek Organization.

It goes on and on…. To Prospective Pledges: Our fraternity’s motto talks about Nobility, Strength, and Progress thru the ages. When you are a college student it may sound like a just some gibberish that is being fed to you, but as you do progress thru these ages, you’ll one day reflect back and realize how those words ring so true. Diversity, Leadership, Community, all are a part of something that reaches far beyond self. We are not asking anyone to join our fraternity. We are encouraging you to become a part of our fraternity, our family, our brother. Phi, wanna Rock and Roll all night…and party everyday!

Andrew Cleary
Alpha Nu 1989

Why Phi? – William Kivlon / Alpha Delta 1982

I attended Kean College in the fall of 1979, I just transferred from a college in North Carolina to Kean College. I was going to commute from Wayne NJ, to Union, NJ as a full time student. I was your everyday student. I went to class and went home after I was finished. I realized I needed to have more of the college experience. I needed to meet more people in the school. I was never into sports, and I never in my life of thinking of joining a fraternity at school. I was in school for 6 months, before I started look into it.

SO WHY NU SIGMA PHI? I meet a few of the members in some of my classes. I was given a personal invitation to come to meet the Greeks. I liked the history; being one of the oldest fraternities on campus dating back to Newark College and the fact that they were all individuals. Just by looking at the members you could see this. I was surprise that a friend of my father-in law was a Phi member, back at Newark College. Going to college, working, studying has a lot of pressure on you. Being part of Nu Sigma Phi just made going to school a little bit easier. I know after a few hard classes or after taking a test that there was always someone at the our table or the local pub to have a beer with.

I graduated in 1982 and I still keep in touch with my Fraternity, as with life changes, marriage, kids and jobs, now the Internet its much easier to stay in touch. I think that joining a fraternity gets you though the worst of times and the best with great friends and memories from the college days. Joining Nu Sigma Phi was the #1 best thing I did in college. Its not just about the parties, but the friendship you have and the whole experience; then and now. I would do this all over again. Nu Sigma Phi was (and hope soon to be again!) the best at Kean University. This is a new beginning, but never forget the past.

William Kivlon
Alpha Delta 1982

Why Phi? – Danny Medina / Alpha Ata 1983

I go to Kean to move into 303 Rogers because I lived far enough and got to bypass the freshman dorm living. My parents are helping me move my shit into the apartment and I meet Eric Tichenor, my roommate. Along with Eric was a dude named Bobby Henkel. I remember humping my crap from car to room while Bobby and my Dad are chatting it up. I happen to catch this one moment when my Dad asks Bobby if they allowed alcohol in the apartments and in no uncertain terms and with the reaction time of an airbag, Bobby responds with “oh yeah.” It was beautiful to see the realization that my Dad was coming to in those few seconds of interaction with Bobby, the first Phi brother I ever met.

Not one to turn down a cocktail himself and knowing his two sons are right at the base of his apple tree, my Dad pretty much knew the score as he and my Mom left me in the apartment and to my own D-vices. So were hang’in out getting things out in the open and finding a lot of common ground already between the 3 of us so the comfort factor was immediate. Time passes and Bobby announces that he’s headed off to work, to a liquor store of all places. Like a good Phi brother, he takes our orders for alcohol hoping to aid in the delinquency of already delinquent minors.

Time seemed to stop from the moment he left us till the time he got back. Needless to say, Eric and I, with plenty of start-up cash for the semester to come, liquidated plenty of assets to get us rocking our first night. Bobby get back and we put it in gear right away.?? Without telling a soul, somehow, these dudes just started showing up at our apartment, jumping right in to the “assets” and low and behold, we had a full-on RAGE in our apartment. There were a group of guys that were TIGHT as hell and cool to us, and lots of strangers that just happened to filter in. The joint was so jumping that it led to mine and Eric’s introduction to the 3rd floor RA, Andy Ford. He was pretty cool after some behavioral guidance but little did he know that it was just foreshadowing what was to come from 303 Rogers for the next 2 semesters. He should have known because unbeknownst to me, he was well acquainted with those COOL guys, the Phi brothers.

We went into the wee hours of the night with a few beer runs on top of what Bobby brought back from the store. Some of the Phi brothers that were there that night were Bobby Henkel, Dennis Hendricks, Ray Fortuna, Rasta man, Bert Barbuty but I’m only kinda guessing because I was walking around unconscious that night and into the morning. I woke up the next day to an apartment that needed dental records for identification. It looked like a recycling dump for green, brown, clear and any other shade of glass bottle you can think of, and this was before the whole recycling movement. There were casualties on the chair, couch floor, all over and I was thinking that I should be checking their pulses and clearing airways ‘cause these people looked dead. After surveying the damage and assessing my first night at college, I knew right then that I found my home. There was no doubt in my mind from that moment on that I was going to pledge and become a Phi Brother.??

Danny Medina
Alpha Ata 1983

Why Phi? – Dean Smith “Sideways” / Alpha Mu 1988

Upon entering “Meet the Greeks” I saw fraternities with trophies, scrapbooks, wearing ties and jackets. I looked around the room and saw groups who just looked kind of stuffy and straight laced. Finally, I looked to my right and saw a group of guys in blue Nu Sigma Phi shirts. They were drinking “Special Punch” and had nothing on their table but a lawn jockey and a boom box. Music was pumping and one of the brothers was dancing on the table. ??I was then approached by the President of the Fraternity, Mike Connell.

He came right up to me and my friend Frank who was also in my pledge class and said, “Hey guys, whats up? Do you wanna pledge a fraternity?” He said Phi was having a party later in the dorms and we were invited. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming to Frank and I. We had an awesome time at the party and the next Monday morning, we were pledging Nu Sigma Phi.??I have 3 best friends in my life. I love them like brothers. Frank was a friend from H.S. and he pledged with me. Rich was already a Phi Alumni. Lastly, John was also a pledge brother of mine. ?

Pledging a fraternity is not about partying, girls and everything else you’ve heard. Pledging a fraternity is about making life long friends. You will not like everyone in the fraternity. I didn’t and still don’t like everyone in Nu Sigma Phi. However, I am proud to say that 2 of the 3 best friends I have are directly because of Nu Sigma Phi and all 3 are brothers of Nu Sigma Phi. ??I ask you, if you meet someone you can call your brother, someone who would give you the shirt off their back if you need it, isn’t that something you would be lucky to be a part of? If you meet someone who is the best man at your wedding or possibly the god father to your children, isn’t it worth pledging? ??This is what Nu Sigma Phi has given me.??

Dean Smith “Sideways”
Alpha Mu 1988

Why Phi? – Eric Tichenor / Alpha Ata 1983

Growing up as an Army Brat I spent most of my life moving from place to place, and then spent my later high school years in Korea on an Army base. I went to DOD (Department of Defense) schools most of my life and this makes for are rather sheltered life experience. Although it was good in some ways, the “real” world, as it turns out, was much different than I ever knew.

So, there I was a graduating senior looking to start my adult life at college in the U.S., with my parents and [current] friends 6000 miles away. When I arrived, my sister who preceded me here to Kean College, introduced me to the Phi brothers, which included her then boy friend and husband to be. These guys took me in and immediately got me acclimated me to campus life, as well as life in general. They were a God-send, as I would have otherwise been on my own to discover these things.

Joining the fraternity was a no-brainer, since most of my new friends were Nu Sigma Phi. But, I also had a deep respect for what they stood for. This was a diverse and well rounded group of guys with a long history of ideals that I approved of. Most of them knew what they wanted in life, and new how to have fun achieving it. And, with the wisdom of decades of alumni who were very active in the fraternity, I knew I was in it for the long haul.

Eric Tichenor
Alpha Ata 1983

Why Phi? – Jim Mason / Alpha Mu 1971

I decided to pledge Phi because a number of my friends were already brothers and I got to know a lot of others through them. I came to see that this group was different than most of the other frats in that they didn’t take themselves too seriously, being a member of the fraternity was not all consuming of their lives, and basically they were nice guys. After joining, I continued to find this to be true.

At the time our big fund raising/social activity was to sponsor one or two “Rally to the Keg” events per year. Today we’d never be able to do that, but this was early 70s and times were different. We would make arrangements with a backwoods bar in North Jersey or New York State, map out the route to the place from campus and charge an entry fee (I forget how much) for each car that entered. It would be on a weekend afternoon and each driver was given a set of hints from which they were to figure out where to go. They were also given a sealed envelope with the name and address of the bar in case they got too lost or frustrated. The first car that arrived won a prize; I think we also had second and third place prizes too. If they got there and their envelope had been opened, they were disqualified. And then we’d have a party until the keg ran out. They were a lot of fun, but eventually we stopped them because of fear of someone getting a DWI because we were usually an hour or two away from campus.

Many of the brothers who were active when I was have remained lifelong friends and we remain in touch and get together a few times a year. These are guys I know I can still call, 35 years later, at any time of the day or night, and they will be there to help me with whatever I need. I don’t know of many other people, outside of my immediate family, about whom I can say that.

Jim Mason
Alpha Mu 1971

Why Phi? – Tommy Lee / Alpha Psi 1975

It is a unique and funny story how I became a Phi Brother. Because, I really didn’t intend to pledge Phi, I got Drafted. You see, I was very skeptical of fraternities. I said to myself what can they offer me? Besides, they party too much and I really don’t have the time. Then one fateful day in the fall of 1975, I was hanging out in the student center with my buddy (Charlie) from high school and few other people we met during orientation. We were keeping to ourselves like many typical freshmen. Then a couple Phi Brothers came over to our table. One of them (Fred Tisch) turned out to a friend of the family of one of the guys (Ralph Naples) I was sitting with. They started talking to him and the next thing I heard was Fred saying Ralph you are joining the Frat. All Ralph could get out was but…but…(poor guy didn’t have a chance). The rest of us thought it was pretty funny. Till the other Phi Brother (Joe Festa) turned to me and Charlie and said you guys too follow me. Well, let me just say that you do not say no to Fred especially when he has “Priscilla” at his side. The rest as they say is history.

Seriously, joining Phi was the best thing that I have done (besides marrying my wonderful wife and have a lovely daughter) in my life. The Fraternity has taught me a lot about friendship, responsibility and commitment. I have also made life-long friends. Sharing life experiences (some good and some bad). Watching each others family and children grow up through the years. Those memories I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Tommy Lee
Alpha Psi 1975

Why Phi? – John “JT” Thompson / Alpha Theta 1984

I remember this day clearly. It was my first day of classes at Kean and I was waiting to go into my Psychology 101 class; I noticed a really cute girl waiting too. I decided I was going to sit next to her, at any cost. As we started to shuffle into the classroom I distinctly recall nudging (OK, shoving) another guy out of the way. I got the seat the I was looking for but not in the way you might think. While the cute blonde was on my left (we dated briefly) the person to my right had a profound impact on my college career and beyond.

You see, sitting next to me was Danillo “Danny” Medina, and after a couple of classes and some friendly banter he invited me and my friend Steve to an open tea for his fraternity. We both accepted. Initially, I was suspicious since I never had any compulsion to hang out with a bunch of preppy frat boys and I had already adopted every stereotype associated with fraternities. The brothers at Nu Sigma Phi quickly converted me from staunch resistance to outright optimism. These guys were not “cookie-cutter” jocks or white-bread poster boys for middle-class suburbia, they were…well….like me.

The spectrum of individuals in Phi was immediately appealing to me. The group was diverse, eclectic and somewhat irreverent. Their loyalty to each other was obvious and their energy contagious. After my first open tea, I knew I had to pledge. I wanted to be part of this curious group of characters, if for no other reason than to see what might happen next. The rest, as they say, was all downhill. I was president of my pledge class (something I am proud of to this day) and from Homecoming to Greek Olympics, from induction ceremonies, to our annual book sale and the KCNJ Carnival, my tenure as an active brother was rewarding. The culmination of my Phi life was in 1988 when I was elected president of Nu Sigma Phi (barely edging out my close friend, John Albrecht). I never really thought of myself as a leader back then. Today, I know differently. If it wasn’t for the camaraderie and life-long support of Nu Sigma Phi, I may not have realized my true potential. I am eternally grateful to be affiliated with such strong, divergent individuals whom I consider family.

John “JT” Thompson
Alpha Theta 1984

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