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Regis Philbin comes home to Cardinal Hayes High School

Regis Philbin speaks in the auditorium that now bears his name

Regis Philbin speaks in the auditorium that now bears his name

Regis Philbin is famous for a lot of things: hosting “Who Wants to be a Millionaire”, bantering every morning on “Live with Regis and Kelly” and following the triumphs and defeats of his beloved Fighting Irish at Notre Dame. But in the Morrisania section of the Bronx, Philbin, 79, has a new distinction: his high school auditorium now bears his name.

Cardinal Hayes, an all-boys Catholic high school on the Grand Concourse, has a long list of notable alumni. In addition to Philbin (class of ’49), other former students include director Martin Scorsese and the late comedian George Carlin (who didn’t graduate), as well as former NBA star Jamal Mashburn and current Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Willie Colon.

Cardinal Hayes has traditionally been a way out for students growing up in Morrisania and other poor neighborhoods in the Bronx, where 38 percent of families live below the poverty level.  The long-time athletic powerhouse has a 99 percent graduation rate, school officials say.

Bringing back famous grads like Philbin is meant to inspire the current students.  At a Mass before the auditorium was dedicated this week, Archbishop Timothy Dolan of the New York Diocese praised Philbin as a role model. “Scholars tell us that young people learn best by example,” Dolan said. “I say Regis is a good example of a man of faith and a man of charity. Today we are honoring him by renaming the auditorium in his name.”

Philbin may be a celebrity but the school itself is also a star, Dolan said. “I think Cardinal Hayes is second only to Yankee Stadium as the most famous place in the Bronx.”

He got no disagreement from the cheering crowd of students. “Right now, we are having Mass with the archbishop, which is something big,” said senior Raymond Garo, who hopes to attend Syracuse University next year.  Although more than 60 years have passed since Philbin was a student, Garo said some things hadn’t changed. “I’m sure back when Regis was here it was a lot stricter,” he said, “but it’s always the same traditions that follow.”

Philbin took the podium and passed on a few memories. “It was a tough town,” he said. “In the 50s, 60s, 70s, you’d be sitting there watching the Yankees game and hear [the late sportscaster] Howard Cosell saying the Bronx is burning.” An emotional Philbin then spoke directly to the current students: “You guys all look like champions to me.”

One Response to “Regis Philbin comes home to Cardinal Hayes High School”

  1. Steve McGeady Class of ’69. UP HAYES AND ALL IT’S LOYAL MEN.


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