March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Dave O'Leary, Sr. talks about his 60-year friendship with Philbin

“I met him the first day on campus in 1949,” said O’Leary, who was part of a group of six that flew from Chicago to New York a few weeks ago to have dinner with Philbin and his wife, Joy.  
They’ve kept in touch through the years, especially during football season, even though O’Leary said he’s not as big a fan as Philbin.
“He did go to the MSU/Notre Dame game,” he said, and was excited when Notre Dame won.  “That made his day.”
A staunch supporter of his alma mater on the screen as well as in person, Philbin is also a generally approachable man, O’Leary said.  “People who have as much success as him are generally unapproachable,” but Philbin has had his struggles along the way and O’Leary said that kept him humble.
“He’s the same basic person as he was in college,” he said, explaining Philbin knew what he wanted back when he started school, but he had to work hard to get it.
O’Leary recalled Philbin had an uncle who was a producer for “The Jackie Gleason Show” who told him to go to college and promised that when he was finished he would help him out.  By the time Philbin finished school and a stint in the Navy that connection had dried up, so he had to work his way up through the ranks.
“Year after year, he worked his way up.  He had a lot of ups and downs,” O’Leary said, adding, “There have been some pretty tough times,”  which, he said, contributed to Philbin  “never really getting comfortable financially.”
Although Philbin is moving on from his morning show with Kelly Ripa, O’Leary said, don’t mention the word “retiring”: Philbin said he’s just moving on.
“He’s going to do other things with television,” O’Leary said.  “His secretary — his personal secretary, not the one for the television studio — said she knows she’ll have a job, (but she’s) just not what that job is yet.”