It is hard to say without knowing what the 'honorary' shodan did... did he throw her too hard (I've seen 'real' yudansha do this), talk her to death (ditto), explain something incorrectly (ditto), hit on her (ditto, ditto, ditto).
Is it rather that he doesn't measure up to 'real' standards? We had an 80 year old get his shodan at my previous dojo, the year before I joined. I'd only been doing Aikido for a few months when I joined, and yet, I could tell he was an 80 year old shodan, and did not expect the same from him as a 25 year old one (which goes back to my belief that rank is not absolute, but based on the individual and his potential). Yes, I had to remind him which technique we were doing, but it was inspirational that he was doing them.