Regis Philbin. Actor, comedian and now high school auditorium.
On Wednesday, October, 20, the auditorium at Cardinal Hayes High School was named after the long-time morning show host and who graduated from the school in 1949. During a special mass school and diocesan officials unveiled a plaque dedicating the space, which seats more than 900, to the funny-man.
“We’re so proud of the gift of joy he brings to so many, and we’re grateful to the generosity he continually shows to Cardinal Hayes,” Archbishop Timothy Dolan said during the ceremony. “And the generosity this school brings to the Bronx by giving so many a quality Catholic education. We’re so proud to be able to name this auditorium after a real Hayesman.”
To thunderous applause, both Archbishop Dolan and Philbin were given special high school jackets in the school’s signature colors of cardinal and gold.
“I didn’t expect this to be the spectacle it has become,” Philbin said when he came on stage to accept the plaque and jacket with his wife Joy.
It didn’t take long for him to begintelling stories about his favorite teachers in the old days when he attended the school, during the Second World War.
“I saw Father Pavis over there and I asked, is that Fr Pavis, they said no. It’s Monsignor Pavis now,” he said, about a favorite priest, now silver-haired. “Sixty years ago he was a young man with jet black hair. When we came in on those cold days during the winter, he’d be there at the door. He’d give you a big slap on the back and say ‘here we go’, and you felt like a million bucks.”
During his speech, Philbin got choked up and urged students to take advantage of the possibilities the school affords them every day.
“I regretted I didn’t work harder on my education. I didn’t have the confidence to really get a career going,” he said. “There is only so much the teachers can do, and the rest is up to you. But standing here, you all look like champions.”
Since leaving the school, Philbin went on to Notre Dame University, where he graduated in 1953 with a degree in Sociology. Soon after he moved out to California where he had his first talk show, The Regis Philbin Show.
In 1967 he became nationally known as the sidekick on ‘The Joey Bishop Show’, which ran until 1969. From there he hosted a series of morning shows, both on TV and the radio.
In 1988,‘Live with Regis and Kathie Lee’ became nationally syndicated and a major hit across the country. In 2001, Kathie Lee was replaced by Kelly Ripa and the show was changed to ‘Live with Regis and Kelly’, which continues to be a hit.
He is also known as the former host of the widely successful ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’.
Cardinal Hayes principal William Lessa said the school has been planning to dedicate the auditorium to Philbin for more than a year.
“He’s a great role model for what we do here,” he said. “He’s a typical Bronx kid who made it. We are trying to give all our kids those opportunities to dream their dreams and then realize those dreams.”