A Lifetime of Giving: Arnold and Grace Rumbold

A Lifetime of Giving: Arnold and Grace Rumbold

By Rudy Howell

Arnold and Grace Rumbold live with a sense of responsibility to contribute back to the community that has helped them build a rewarding life together.

From supporting women in the trades to elevating emerging Canadian opera singers, the Rumbolds have left their mark on Edmonton’s institutions, including the Francis Winspear Centre for Music and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO).

Ironically, Arnold and Grace’s story begins in Calgary, where they met at a student dance at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in 1953. Arnold was pursuing an electrical apprenticeship while Grace was studying stenography at nearby Henderson Secretarial School. Grace recalled Arnold being a “smooth talker,” while Arnold maintained it was his dancing skills that won her over.

“It was love at first sight. I didn’t let any other guy get close to her for the rest of the night,” said Arnold.

The young couple married in 1957 when Arnold completed his electrical apprenticeship. The next year, they moved to Edmonton where Arnold had been offered a job with a contractor. Grace quickly found work as a stenographer for a Family Justice. Just like that, the Rumbolds never looked back.

Having both grown up in rural Alberta, the Rumbolds’ new life together in Edmonton gradually immersed them in the arts. Arnold’s only contact with music as a child was through his father’s radio. He recalled his dad working through the winter of 1940, chopping firewood by hand, to save enough money to purchase the device so his family could listen to the nightly news. This radio introduced Arnold to Mozart and Beethoven, whom he called his “friends on the farm.”

The Rumbolds began attending ESO concerts in the 1960s at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. Perhaps through osmosis, Arnold became a member of the Richard Eaton Singers and later the Edmonton Opera Chorus. Compared to his hometown of Peace River, he said Edmonton “had it all.”

“The appreciation for music was so available here … the sounds of the orchestra really affected me. I often thought, ‘What would Edmonton be without a symphony?’ I think (the ESO) was one of the things that kept us here,” said Arnold.

In 1964, while working on the construction of what is now NAIT’s administrative building, Arnold began assisting his company with electrical estimating and, within a year, was named its chief estimator. Thanks to his enterprising spirit, Rumbold soon became a sought-after name in Edmonton’s electrical industry. In 1988, while in his mid-fifties, Arnold decided to “hang out his own shingle” by launching what turned out to be a lucrative consulting firm. He described this time as the best period of his career.

This business venture helped enable the Rumbolds to pursue their philanthropic mission of supporting and sustaining local charities, institutions, and initiatives, such as the Winspear and ESO, that make them proud to call Edmonton home.

“We made our living here, and our kids grew up here. So, we see (supporting the Winspear and ESO) as a responsibility because we know how expensive it is. We see world-class people here and world-class people from Edmonton, which is wonderful,” said Arnold.

The Winspear Centre, in particular, holds a special place in the Rumbolds’ hearts. On September 12, 1997, Arnold proudly sang with the Richard Eaton Singers during the concert hall’s opening night performance alongside the ESO and Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Since then, they have made many fond memories downtown together, watching the ESO perform while continuing to be generous donors to our organization.

When the Winspear Expansion Project was announced in 2019, Arnold and Grace stepped up quickly with a donation to the Winspear Expansion campaign. Having watched Edmonton’s population grow from roughly 250,000 in 1958 to well over 1 million in 2024, the Rumbolds know the impact a state-of-the-art music centre will have on generations of Albertans.

“The city is growing, and I am totally in favour of (the expansion). It just fits with reality. There are thousands of children who need to be served … talent can be developed here. Having these educational and entertainment facilities for everyone to use is fantastic. What an opportunity!” said Arnold.

The Rumbolds have always been guided by a forward-thinking philosophy, which is why they were quick to support the Winspear Expansion Project. They want to see the Winspear and Alberta thrive and know the opportunity for children and families to make and share music is crucial to the success of our community and culture. With Arnold and Grace’s help, the Winspear is building classrooms, studios, and programming space for more than 50,000 people to make and share music in a facility designed for it, every year.

While the Rumbolds have never “proselytized” their philanthropy, they attest to a sense of purpose, satisfaction, and reward from their lifetime of giving. Their generosity creates results that they, their children, and their grandchildren can be proud of.

“We try to lead by example by supporting the things we believe in. The arts need our help, so they get it,” said Arnold. “I know that things take money to operate efficiently. We do not have an awful lot, but we have some, and we do give because we know it is needed,” added Grace.

In 2019, Arnold and Grace created the Rumbold Foundation to continue their philanthropic legacy. Of their countless impactful acts of generosity, they are particularly proud of supporting the Winspear Expansion Project, helping to complete Dr. Francis G. Winspear’s dream of “having a place where the people of our region can make the most beautiful music they are capable of and share it with each other.” They believe this project will change Edmonton for the better and they hope others will offer their support to complete the dream.

“We’ve had a pretty darn good life and are proud of our association with the symphony. We’ve lived in the best of times in the best of countries. We are so fortunate,” said Arnold.

To learn more about the Winspear Expansion Project or to donate, please visit