The ideal for having a training society was suggested on April 2, 1942 at a meeting of the American Petroleum Institute Committee on Training. Copies of the constitution were mailed to 25 prominent training directors on June 15, 1942. ASTD members met in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for its first formal meeting on January 12, 1943. Thomas S. Keaty was its first elected president.
It was first called the American Society of Training Directors, but in 1964 the association changed its name to the American Society for Training and Development. In 2000, the organization chose to refer to itself by the letters ASTD, in order to recognize that the profession looks far beyond training, such as performance solutions and learning in all its various forms.