A reader, Dr. Z, has been feeling a little sad that Z's PhD advisor didn't congratulate Z on a recent honor: Z was elected a Fellow of a professional society. Z thinks a "normal" PhD advisor would have congratulated a former student who received such an honor.
"Normal" isn't a word typically associated with PhD advisors in general, but we have to consider this situation in context. Would most PhD advisors congratulate their former advisees on attaining a rather prestigious award or other significant honor? (I know that being elected/selected Fellow varies in importance in different professional societies, but assume that the scenario involves a prestigious example).
First, the PhD advisor would have to notice. The award/honor would presumably therefore be of an academic sort or a high-profile industry/government/foundation award such that it is reasonable to expect a professor in a particular field to notice. Some people keep track of these things; some don't. My former PhD advisor, for example, does not.
Then, if the PhD advisor knows about the honor, s/he has to remember to send -- and make the effort to send -- a congratulatory message, rather than just waiting for the next conference for an in-person congratulations.
It used to bother me that my former advisor did not proactively support me (post-graduation) in the ways that some other grad advisors support their former students. As a member of various committees for professional societies and such, I commonly see grad advisors who continue to support and promote their former advisees. Mine didn't. I am of course grateful that he wrote positive enough letters that I was able to get a faculty position, but at times -- early in my career -- I felt at a bit of a disadvantage in some respects.
But: I was fortunate to have other colleagues who supported me in much the same way that some former advisors do. This completely made up for the lack of such involvement/interest by my advisor in my post-graduation career. It is important to have such supporters, and they don't have to be your former advisor.
Years later, when I'd been doing pretty well in my career for a while, my former advisor told me he was proud of my accomplishments, that I was one of his most successful advisees, and he picked me to give the citation when he received a big award recognizing his career contributions. Some advisors are more proactive about being proud of their former advisees, and some are not; in the latter case, it doesn't mean they don't care -- they just might not make it obvious that they do (until they retire).
I like to think that I am a little more aware of these things than my former advisor is, but I'd also like to think that former advisees don't sit around feeling bad about a lack of sufficient notice on my part of their post-grad school careers and lives. And if I ever overlooked something -- like an award -- I would be happy to get an e-mail from a former advisee saying "I just got elected as a Fellow of the Science Society of Scientists", and I would reply with sincere congratulations, pleased that a former advisee wanted to share this great news with me.
Grad advisors: Do you follow the exploits of your former advisees closely? Have you ever sent a congratulatory e-mail on hearing that a former advisee had received an award, promotion, or other honor? (And if so, do you consider yourself normal?)
Former advisees: If you mostly got along with your grad advisor, how would you feel if your former advisor did not congratulate you about an academic honor? Of course there is a vast array of grad-advisor interactions and personalities and so on, so this is a somewhat meaningless question, but the original question was sent by someone who was bothered by the lack of a congratulatory message from the former advisor, so I ask it anyway.