This time of year, the daffodils bloom, the days grow longer, and NYU offers of admission reach several thousand high school students. I imagine many of those students will be asking themselves, why should I attend NYU, and not one of the other great colleges that have said they want me to be in their Class of 2020?Washington Square Park photo

I think of my decision to come to NYU as the dean of Liberal Studies around this time exactly twelve years ago. I am a native New Yorker (born in the Bronx, since you ask), but in Spring 2004 I had lived away from New York for some thirty years, and, frankly, I had never planned on returning. So what drew me to this university and to the city where I grew up?

Part of what lay behind the decision was very personal — after 9/11, I felt that I wanted to make a statement of solidarity with all New Yorkers, and that the best way to do that was to live here myself.

Part of what drew me back was also the realization that there is no place on earth more exciting, more dynamic, and more welcoming than the Big Apple. Every day, I have the extraordinary experience of discovering some thing or some one new to me, and even just walking the streets I feel the city’s energy pulsing through me. I’ve lived in many places around the world, and none comes close to this level of excitement.

And then there is NYU. Before I came to NYU, I taught at eight universities in the U.S. and the U.K. They are all wonderful intellectual communities, and they all provide students with a first-class education. But none matches NYU’s breadth of interesting and innovative programs; none provides an environment that so values diversity and that so encourages creativity.

I am grateful that NYU has provided me with my own opportunities to learn. I enjoy the challenge immensely. And I look forward soon to meeting NYU’s Class of 2020, who too will have chosen the rigorous, sometimes challenging, always exciting, NYU education.

Last week, I took time away from the office to visit some of the city’s quietest places​ –​ Central Park, Stuyvesant Square, ​Carl Schurz Park, ​and Fort Tryon Park, all in Manhattan.

New York — especially Manhattan — has an intensity like no other place on earth. I was born here — and after many years of wandering, I can imagine living nowhere else. Still, from time to time, even this native son craves an hour or two of complete stillness and quiet.

​To find true solitude, there’s no place like the Bronx Botanical Garden on a weekday. Here you can see outcrops of Fordham gneiss: the Bronx’s rocky spine that is over a billion years old. You can walk under the only remaining first-growth forest in the city, some of whose trees probably were seedlings when Dutch still was our official language.

This photo is of a restored mill on the Bronx River, the city’s only fresh-water river. It once powered dozens of water mills, ​the power supply for the city’s first industrial age, but now it is largely hidden (though it still asserts itself by flooding every few years). Sitting in the shade, listening to the river, time almost stops.Mill