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Hardeep Grewal is chief executive officer of Los Angeles-based OhCal Foods.

Before talking about the differences I've noticed between university culture in Canada and the United States, I should describe what higher education means to me.

Aristotle observed that we are hard-wired to think of life in thirds – beginning, middle and end – as traced with a story arc. In my native Punjab, India, I'd say it's more like a plateau. Mobility isn't common. You're born to a certain lot in life. And for many, that's how it remains.

My parents, who were farmers, saved their money to send me to Canada in 1972. I had $7 in my pocket when I arrived in Montreal. They wanted my personal story arc to show ascent and the attainment of what they never achieved themselves: an education.

The challenge of being an allophone in Quebec was too much at first. Dejected, I dropped out of high school. I worked in a factory and learned basic English and French through osmosis. Eventually, I made it to Concordia University. I put myself through school by driving a taxi at night.

I recently donated $1-million to support MBA students at my alma mater's John Molson School of Business. My Concordia education made it possible to attain a green card and move to California with my wife, Patwant, in 1984.

We made a somewhat frivolous purchase that ended up being our main source of income: a Subway restaurant in Los Angeles. Today, we manage 2,100 of them in the United States and Canada.

Education helped make my proverbial second act an incredibly productive one. While I always recognized that on some level, I only began to fully appreciate and express my allegiance to Concordia after exposure to university culture in the United States. Here's why.

One of my three sons graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles. On the surface, UCLA has similarities to Concordia. Each is a public research institution. Each has renowned labs dedicated to synthetic biology. The number of students at each is eerily close: Concordia has 46,000 and UCLA has 42,000.

As a parent attending events at UCLA, I perceived something distinct: amazing energy, unbridled pride and intense loyalty. I would describe it as an almost tribal mentality. Americans seem to love being part of a group and spare no opportunity to mention it. By contrast, Canadians are quite adept at resisting any kind of sectarian affinity for where they received their education.

I have spoken to Canadians about this, often using university sport as an example. Canadians say: "Americans are obsessed with football. They are obsessed with basketball." Of course, they spare no opportunity to take in a game.

That's true. Canadians love hockey, though. When is the last time you took in a Concordia Stingers hockey game, or another varsity match? I read about an annual University of Kentucky ritual where students camp out to buy tickets for the school's basketball games. The same university's Wildcats football team plays in a stadium with more than 67,000 seats. There is something more than the popularity of these sports at play here. It's cultural.

According to QS university rankings, half of the world's top 20 universities are in the United States – this despite the United States being a relatively young country. I don't think it's a coincidence that Americans are often generous when it comes to supporting their universities.

According to Giving USA, which tracks charitable data, Americans gave $54.6-billion (U.S.) to education in 2014. Not only are American university graduates eager to boast about where they studied, they are proud to show how invested they are and encourage others to do likewise. By contrast, Canadians gave a total of $12.8-billion (Canadian) to charity in 2013, according to Statistics Canada.

While Canada is a smaller country, the majority of private giving goes to religious organizations, followed by health care.

As austerity measures threaten to constrict growth at universities across Canada, now seems as good a time as any for Canadians to stop liking their universities and start loving them.

I donated $1-million to my alma mater. I chose to do this after prolonged exposure to a culture where a university is more than a rite of passage – it's an inauguration into a selective community.

I hope my initiative and words will prompt others to recognize and act on their own allegiances to higher education in Canada, which seems to be bred in the bone among many of my American friends.